Thursday, November 27, 2008

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

A Thanksgiving scene from my living room. The Macy's parade is just starting, and this is the first float:

My boys observed the following:

Clay: "A car float! Sweet!"

Drew: "Happy Lego Star Wars Day!"

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Sentimental Moment

Yesterday during one of our breaks between violin lessons, Clay and I found ourselves at the campus Starbucks. We've got 3 classes with a 45 minute break in between each (clearly I don't know the correct people to bribe) so thank goodness for modern campus conveniences. Duquesne just renovated it's student union, which Mike will grumpily complain if asked that it was a dump when he went, but do keep in mind that he can be prone to hyperbole. Now, it's a centrally located building with many comfy sofas and chairs, a bank, a bookstore and a Starbucks.

We arrived in the middle of a very gray, blustery day. Pittsburgh is getting ready for winter, and the leaves where a' swirlin'. Juggling a violin case, my purse, and a tote bag, along with my five year old, I scurry to the counter and order a 'not so hot chocolate' for Clay and a venti Eggnot latte for me. Since I love the eggnog latte, I refrain from my usual comment of 'what does Venti mean, anyway?' I suspect the collegiate baristas are not in the mood. Clay skips to a corner sofa, I grab our drinks and after testing his for the appropriate level of 'not so hotness', I sip my latte and rejoice. I plop into a green velour chair next to him and check my watch... 25 minutes until we need to leave for class. Outside the glass windows a big gust of wind is pushing leaves along on their merry route, and I'm able to survey the scene.

Interestingly, for a Saturday afternoon the place is practically empty. There's a student in a hoodie sweatshirt across the room, iPod buds in ears, hairband in place, a couple of binders and books on the table. Another couple by the window, and us. "Kids today", I mutter. When I was in college, a place like this would probably have been teeming with activity. Then I look down at my $4 drink and realize that I'm wrong. My friends and I wouldn't have had the money needed to hang out in a Starbucks.

Clay's grabbed my iPhone and is playing a puzzle game, so I have nothing to occupy my brain except my thoughts. And the coffee shop music, which was very, very good. Etta James* followed by James Taylor, and then as if God was trying to yank me back 20 years, Debussy's Clair de Lune. Not that this song is significant to my college years, although that was when I first read Terrence McNally's fabulous play. No, the song itself is better than a time machine. No matter where I am, if it's playing I'm always reminded of something. It's such a beautiful piece of music. When I was pregnant with Clay I mentioned to my buddy Ed that I wanted to play that song over and over again to my belly because I had read that you should pick a calming piece of music to play to the baby in utero, and then after it's born you could play it whenever the baby was freaking out, and he would calm down. I loved this idea, and was sure that I had discovered the secret to parenthood. What foe is cholic against beautiful music? Right. The next day, thoughtful Ed gave me a cd he burned with several different versions of Clair de Lune. I spent a few nights with headphones on my belly until one of the many baby books I was reading slapped me back to reality.

The song has ended and I look up and notice that hoodie sweatshirt girl now has her head on her table. And in those few quiet moments of reflections I realized something. I am so glad I am not her. All night studying and all night socializing are long gone for me. Those problems have been replaced with far greater worries (a mortgage, a paycheck, a family). I should yearn for the days where the next paper or exam or boy occupied my thoughts. But now I have more interesting and more important considerations, as well as a consistent eight hours of sleep.

At Last!*

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


It's over. Amen. We have a president-elect and took a huge step forward as a country.

This is for Clay and Drew. Years from now you will be old enough to vote, and there are a few things you must do.

First, VOTE. Don't cop out and say it doesn't matter and your opinion doesn't count. It counts. Vote. Do it.

Second, have an educated opinion. Read up on the candidates and the issues, and seek out many different sources for this information. Read the New York Times AND the Washington Times. Watch CNN and Fox News. Even if it makes you want to roll your eyes. Then when you make a decision, put it aside and take a few days to embrace the other side's views. After that, if your original decision still rings true to you, it's a good one.

And hopefully you will learn this in either a high school civics class or a college ethics course, but just in case... we need only two things in our leaders. And they are intelligence and integrity. And just like them, you also must be smart and you must be kind. If you have the brains but not the compassion so what? You have no empathy, and no soul. If you don't work hard to learn all that you can but are exceptionally nice, then people will walk all over you.

Participate. You really can do whatever you set your mind to.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Halloween

A couple of years ago we were at Disney World's Magic Kingdom a few weeks before Halloween and we got to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. That was loads of fun, and Clay really had a good time. He was a little older than 2, and I made an informal promise to myself that every year we'd do something special just before Halloween.

I say 'informal', because we haven't really done anything special ever since. When Clay was three (pumpkin costume year), we had just started our massive home renovation and the yard was completely torn up and we were beginning to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. We just went trick or treating and called it a Halloween.

When Clay was four (last year... Batman), we had just left Fairfax for Pittsburgh. In fact, Mike and Clay were travelling to Pittsburgh that afternoon. We decided to let Clay enjoy his last day at his lovely little preschool. We couldn't bear to pull him out before the big party. Thank goodness they arrived on Halloween because trick or treating in a new neighborhood gave us something else to focus on. I think we were all a little sad that day.

This year, I was determined to find a fun party to take the kids to. The Pittsburgh Zoo is supposed to be wonderful, and they have trick or treat events for the two weeks before Halloween. We've been meaning to go to the zoo all year, but haven't made it yet. What with violin and t-ball, I wasn't about to schedule anything else on the weekend. Ditto for pumpkin patches. I hear there are some great ones, but we didn't make it. HOWEVER, we are members of the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, which is fantastic and I was delighted to discover that they were having a 'Spooktacular' on October 30th. Not a weekend event! We could go after work and the kids could get in their costumes and we'd all have a grand few hours at a Halloween party at the Children's Museum. Plus it was free because we were members. Great!

Except that there really wasn't a party after all. It was just extended museum hours. And please don't misunderstand... the museum's a blast and there's much to do. But when it's the night before Halloween and you're calling it a 'Spooktacular', don't you think you could have a cookie and some apple cider ready for the kids? After an hour Mike mumbled 'You know, mom & dad said they're trick or treating tonight in Ambridge and they were disappointed they weren't going to get to see the kids.' Hello! Why didn't you say something sooner? We were gone before you could say 'BOO'.

And the search for pre-Halloween fun continues. Perhaps I'm expecting too much, because I am holding everything up to the Disney bar.

Oh, and as for Halloween itself? Mike and the boys (Clay went as Batman Returns, Drew as Bob the Builder) went out with next door neighbor Darth Vader and his dad. Mike said DV's dad handed him a beer and off they went. They caught up with a group of 7 mom's escorting their children, and all the ladies had wine coolers. Then they ran into a large group of kids escorted by their parents. One of the dads had a rolling cooler he was pulling behind him. Clearly Halloween's fun for the whole family in our neighborhood! And here I was worried about the lack of progressive dinners....

I joke, but truly, they all had a lot of fun, and even though we live on a busy residential street, all of the parents worked the road and forced the cars to slow down and kept an eye on everyone's kid. It was really a nice evening, and who needs a 'planned community' to get to know your neighbors? Hooray for our new neighborhood!