24 May 2009

Apparently, This Is Me

Oftentimes around the dinner table my family and I quiz each other on either super hero and/or Star Wars trivia. Last night Frank asked Evan, "If Mommy were a Star Wars character, which one would she be?"

I was anticipating Princess Leia or Padme Amidala, at the least, though I'd say I'm more of a Mon Mothma.

What came out of my son's mouth was certainly not what I expected. "Sometimes, Mom, your attitude is like a rancor."

Great. My son occasionally sees me as a rancor, one of the most deadly and poorly-tempered beasties in the Star Wars universe. Not to mention, it isn't exactly easy on the eyes.

I wonder, though, if this idea of his will make him clean his room any quicker or remember to put his dirty clothes in the hamper. Maybe as a reminder I'll just have to say, "Don't make me go all rancor on you."

This could be a good thing.

22 May 2009

Teacher Let The Monkeys Out

Today was the last day of school. The kids went in for Mass, then received their report cards and we were out the doors by 9:15. It's been an awesome school year, filled to the brim with milestones that seemed to just fly by.

Flynn's teacher gave each child in her class a personalized plastic bucket containing not only their report card, but a handmade memory book, a jump rope, storybook, 2 pieces of sidewalk chalk (which Flynn is using right this very second), a hand-painted and personalized cross, and a tootsie pop. Evan's beloved teacher, Sr. M.V., wrote him a lovely, heart-touchingly sweet letter. We are blessed to have such wonderful teachers, who not only teach the mind academia, but who teach the heart with their love and appreciation of each child as well.

I know my kids are well prepared for the next school year and are better people to have had such fantastic role models in the classroom.

That being said, my kids (as much as they love school) are ready for days of playing at the pool, going to day camp, day trips, or just hanging out at home.

Here's to summer: Alice Cooper's anthem, "School's Out" as performed with the Muppets.

19 May 2009

Great Lake Swimmers

In need of some music to soothe your weary soul? Look no further than Great Lake Swimmers' latest gem, their fourth, Lost Channels. Sweet, dreamy folk enhanced by lead singer Tony Dekker, who possesses a voice that summons ghosts from times past. It’s a voice that is capable of conveying heartache and comfort all in the space of a single phrase. Lost Channels has become my go-to music when I need to relax (followed closely by Steve Earls' Townes, Andrew Bird's Noble Beast, and Ben Kweller's Changing Horses).

From the Great Lake Swimmers' website: That the album was created in both rural splendour and urban Ontario makes perfect sense for a band that has always navigated the parallels between natural and urban rhythms. River imagery recurs throughout LOST CHANNELS; the title of the album is a reference to a certain passage of the St. Lawrence, close to the recording locale, where a reconnaissance boat from a British warship went mysteriously missing in 1760. There’s no specific reference to the incident in the lyrics, though there are plenty of night skies, howling winds and raging rivers in almost every song which captures an elusive sense of mystery. As the album closes, Dekker sings the final lyrics—“Like the unstoppable river… Your beauty is gentle/ but forceful, and fast”—before the band ends on a suspended note. There is no resolution there, only eternity, a continuum, an endless river.

I've only recently been introduced to Great Lake Swimmers and I will certainly be purchasing their back catalog. Tony Dekker's superior musicianship, fine song craft and haunting melodies have grabbed a hold of me, wormed their way into my heart, and have a rather nice habit of following me around.

Please enjoy "She Comes To Me In Dreams" from Lost Channels.

14 May 2009

Ladies First

Lately, the kiddos and I have been reading selections from Free To Be You And Me. The original version, a LP record with illustrated storybook and a TV movie (which I never saw), was released in 1974. I was 5. I still have my record. It was one of my very favorites, next to the story version of "Lambert The Sheepish Lion" (though the wolf in that story scared the bejeebus out of me).

I love Marlo Thomas' reading of this Shel Silverstein short, "Ladies First." This animated version's pretty cute, too, but nothing compares to the audio version, it was my all-time favorite track (second favorite was Alan Alda & Marlo Thomas' rendition of "Atalanta").

I'm pleased that "Ladies First" is Flynn's favorite. If you can, get your hands on a print copy; it's worth it just for Silverstein's drawings (the last one never fails to make us laugh). Evan's comment on the main character of the story: "That girl is a jerk." She's supposed to be and she gets what's coming to her in the end.

Yes, the animation is very dated. But it's still fun. Evan and I spent quite a bit of time on YouTube last night watching segments like Rosey Grier's "It's Alright To Cry". And while the show is visually dated, the message in each segment is not: it's OK to be different.

If you are a child of the '70's this will bring back memories. If not, enjoy it anyway.

13 May 2009

The Mighty Fly

We're big fans of Nickelodeon's "The Mighty B!" cartoon. The main character, Bessie Higgenbottom (voiced by the adorable and completely manic Amy Poehler), is a Honeybee scout determined to collect every single badge in Honeybee history. Honeybee folklore implies that in doing so, she’ll become a superhero called the Mighty B. Bessie often enlists the help of her dog Happy, her brother Ben, and her best friend Penny.

Flynn recently discovered that "if you take the two n's off my name, it spells fly." I guess that's her new nickname at school, though the boy who's asked her to marry him has started calling her Flynnise (rhymes with Denise).

And Monday while I was watching her swimming lesson, I realized that with her goggles on (which are a little big for her but she insists on wearing them) she looks an awful lot like Bessie.

11 May 2009

A Week's Worth Of Years

Seven years have passed since my dad was stolen from me.

And, yes, I do mean stolen. He did not, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, go gently into the good night. His life was taken. And certainly not gently.

Yes, that initial raw-nerve pain is still there. Most likely, it will be there for the rest of my life. And, yeah, it hurts like a mother. Sometimes it knocks the wind out of me, it's so strong. It's something I've, unwillingly, become accustomed to. Some days, it's not in the forefront of my mind. It's always there, though. Lurking. Coloring every happy moment. Tainting.

There are days like today when I look at my children and I would give almost anything to have my dad here so he could enjoy them as much as Frank and I do. He loved being a grandpa. He knew two of his grandchildren, my son and my sister's first born, for only a brief time, but anytime he saw them his face would light up and he would just marvel at their simply being there. He always had a present of some sort for them. He gave Evan Christmas presents before he was even born (to Evan these are now priceless treasures). This picture is my favorite of them together. They have the same ears. And at the time, practically the same hairstyle.

I miss his physical presence in my life so terribly. I miss his contagious giggle, his wit and wicked sense of humor (as children my sister and I would beg him to tell us jokes), his razor-sharp intelligence, his hugs (he hugged you like it would be the last time; like he was trying to concentrate all of his love for you into this one hug), his smell (a singular mixture of cherry pipe tobacco, Listerine, fresh air, dirt, vet hospital and musty basement), the way his eyes changed color from blue to grey. I miss talking with him. We shared a love of Thoreau, Emerson and Twain; British comedy (his absolute favorite was a show called 'Allo, 'Allo); Get Smart; the Marx brothers; music; food; playing 20 Questions. He could stand on his head longer than anyone I've ever known.

So I have a cry (like I'm doing right this very second).

I listen to the Beach Boys (his favorite band, other than the Kingston Trio). Pet Sounds is playing in the background.

Last night I had a slice of key lime pie from Perkins (certainly not as good as his, but it'd do in a pinch).

I may watch an episode of 'Allo, 'Allo.

I will remember.

Love you, Dad.

Miss you.

08 May 2009

Has It Really Been A Week?

It doesn't seem like a week ago I was reuniting with college friends. The days have flown by, chained together with the mundane tasks of workaday grown-up life: minding the children, tidying the house, laundry, paying various and sundry bills, whatever volunteer work needing to be done at school, I taught the 7th & 8th graders for a day this week.

And in many ways my silence here has been my way of savoring those brief hours with far-flung friends. Friday night we regrouped at one of the two hotels in Charleston and poured over old photos, talking about old times and catching up, laughing a lot. Figuring we'd be a might bit too noisy for other hotel patrons we adjourned to a local establishment for dinner and beverages. We traipsed up and down 4th street from Roc's to Friend's and back again, once we found out that Friend's (our no. 2 hang-out back in the day) was due to undergo renovations and the patrons (and bathrooms) were a little frightening. We did mosey back to the old part of the bar, where we used to hang, and took some pictures. The place looked, and bizarrely smelled, exactly the same. Friend's has an adjoining space with a stage where local bands, that some of our friends were in, used to play. The graffiti on the wall from those days is still intact and brought back tons of occasionally hazy memories.

My friends and I learned a valuable lesson that night: we are no longer 20 and really can't stay up until 3 a.m. and not pay a hefty price the next day. I was hung over for the first time in my life. Yep. I never had a hang over in college. Never. And, boy, could I drink, drink, drink back then. But I powered through the day, happy to suffer through a little dehydration, headache and some vomiting in order to spend time with some of my very favorite people in the world.

The people I came to know in my years at EIU are some of the most talented, creative, smart, funny, caring, and amazing individuals I know. I'm so thankful to be able to call them my friends. My life is blessed.

So it's taken me about a week to come down off that high.

But at least we're connected through Facebook and are already making plans for October.

01 May 2009

The Momcation, Part 2

Last October I ran away for the weekend with some of my college buddies to see the very last play directed at EIU by our teacher, director and mentor Clarence Blanchette.

The play was nothing to write about, but the five of us had a blast and agreed it certainly didn't last long enough.


This weekend Charleston is hosting Celebration: A Festival of The Arts and we decided it was as good enough an occasion to get together as any. And thanks to the modern miracle of Facebook, we've more than doubled our ranks. (We're also celebrating a birthday, a doctorate, and the retirement of our beloved acting teacher, Dr. Jerry Eisenhour).

I'm taking off in a little over an hour or whenever my friends arrive - I'm hitching a ride down with the folks from Chicago. Frank will join me tomorrow after dropping off the kids at my sister's house.

I can't tell you how excited I am to see friends I haven't seen in person in seven months, and some in over 15 years.

My bag is packed and waiting by the door.

Later, taters.