Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Igniting Hope

Yesterday after school, Dani came home and asked, "Hey Mom, would you consider letting me skip school tomorrow and going to Dallas with a bunch of kids from my school?"

"Uh, NO," I answered immediately. "Why on earth do you wanna go to Dallas?"
"Obama is speaking at a rally."
"WELL. I'd consider letting you go, but only if I can come too!"

I've had a hard time figuring out for the last decade just "what I am". I'm not really Republican - I'm too liberal. But I'm not really a Democrat, either; I'm too conservative. Today, I figured it out: I'm Obamican.

Seriously, and I know this sounds completely programmed, but I'm ready for change. And I know this sounds completely rhetorical, but Obama inspires HOPE within me FOR that change.

I've known that Obama is an amazing speaker, so I was excited to experience that for myself. But what I was really interested in is what I HAVEN'T heard much of: what his plans are, what his ideas involve, and how he thinks he can make it all happen.

Dani and I and 3 friends (including another Mom) arrived at Reunion Arena in Dallas at 9:30. Already, the line snaked around and around and around the building, onto the lawn, and throughout the parking garage. We worried that we wouldn't gain entrance to the rally. Instead, after 2.5 hours in line, we scored seats directly behind the podium in the lower level. The fire department closed the doors when the arena reached capacity (17,000 people), and various reports have stated that 1000 people were left outside, unable to get in.

The energy was dynamic; you could FEEL the waves of electricity in the air. I sat back and watched the crowd, so very diverse, as old women and young men high-fived, as business people in suits and inner city kids in bagging pants mingled, as middle class Moms traded cameras with upper class spectators. And I felt the movement. I became PART of it. YES WE CAN. YES WE CAN. YES WE CAN.

I clapped my hands and waved my arms during Kool and the Gang's "Celebration". I mentally noted Eric Clapton's "Change the World" and thought, "That'll be the title of my page when I scrapbook this event. I danced my feet off during "Unwritten", which is one of my favorite songs anyway, but which I will now always associate with today's rally. And I felt the movement.

I rose to my feet when he spoke of college tuition assistance, involving students "giving back" with community service in exchange for college money. I cheered when he promised to "take away tax breaks from companies that are shipping jobs overseas". I pumped my arms when he said he'd find a way to keep the minimum raise on par with inflation. And I felt the movement.

But it was THIS statement that clinched it for me: after a moderate paragraph or five that highlighted the differences between him and Clinton, he said, "But you're not here because of what you're against. You're here because you have hope."

“There is a moment in the life of every generation when that spirit of hope has to shine through,” Mr. Obama said. “This is our moment. This is our time."

I'm making it official tomorrow, when I vote early.

I not only feel the movement.

I'm becoming part of it.


You can see Dani and me in a photo here. (photo #13)

I'd buy it for the scrapbook, but the Dallas Morning News wants THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS for it, and I don't have that kind of scratch. lol! (We're near the bottom left - I'm wearing a pink blouse over a black tank. Dani and one of her friends are sitting on the ground.)

Here are some of the photos that Dani took:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008



we're sitting here watching American Idol, flipping between that and The Biggest Loser (I think we're the last people on the planet without Tivo), when Aidan shouts out, "Hey!! He looks just like Brittani!"

Brittani is my niece.
"He" is Jason Castro.
You be the judge:

But it wasn't just the eyes, the nose, the mouth.
It was his mannerisms, too!
So. Completely. FREAKY.

bad words

Today, I picked up a friend's kid from school and took him home. (I'll let her out herself if she wants. For now, we'll call him Bob. lol!)

As soon as Bob got in my car, his 1st Grade teacher approached the window and said, "Bob had to see the Principal twice today for saying a bad word."

Driving down the road, I said ,"Bob, why did you say a bad word??"
"I didn't know it was a bad word."
"What word did you say?"
"Well, uh. Well. Am I allowed to say it?"
"Yes, you can say it this time."
"Can I say it in front of Aidan and Ian?"
"Yes, go ahead."
"Well, can I say it in front of YOU?"
"This time, yes. Go ahead."
"I won't get in trouble??"
"No, Bob, you won't get in trouble."
"Okay. I said 'ass'."

Actually, to be fair, another kid said it first, and Bob thought out loud, "Hey! I can spell that. A-S-S. Ass!" The teacher sent both kids straight to the principal. When they arrived back in the classroom, one of the other students asked, "Bob, why did you get in trouble?"
Bob has a rather loud voice. He answered, "I said ASS." I can just imagine how it happened. The room was abuzz with chatter, and then fell eerily silent just in time for his word to reach the teacher's ears. lol!! I know that's happened to you, too! So Teacher sent Bob to the Principal again.

After we dropped Bob off at home, Ian said, "What does ass mean?"
I answered, "It's a bad word, Ian."
"But what does it MEAN?"
"You know how 'butt' is a rude word for 'bottom'? Well, "ass" is an even worse word."
Ian screwed up his face like he does when he thinks something is stupid.
"Why is THAT bad? It's just a word for bottom."
"Because it's a CUSS WORD, Ian."
"What's a cuss word?" asked Aidan.

Man, these are the conversations that make being a Mom a hard job.

"A cuss word is when you're trying to be nasty, or mean, or just bad. People use cuss words at those times instead of just saying 'bottom'".
They still didn't get it.
I considered using "sh*t" as another example, but immediately decided against it.

And now I'm waiting, and wondering which of them is gonna say "ass" first.
And when it happens, I'm gonna have to be The Mom and bite my cheeks to keep from snickering.

Monday, February 11, 2008


I don't remember having homework as a 1st Grader.
Or as a second grader.
In fact, I don't remember having daily homework until about 4th grade, and even then, it was mostly reading.
Aidan has homework everyday - math and spelling.
He hates it.
Wait, no. That's not a strong enough word.

Last week, after protests and bargains on his part, bribes and promises on mine, he stopped whining and completed his math homework. But he wouldn't be silenced about his animosity towards it:

For a minute, I considered making him recopy the math problems on a clean sheet of paper since he defaced the one his teacher sent home. Then I thought about just making him erase what he'd written. Then I decided that he had a valid point, and it should be heard. He likes to learn. He really likes school. He just hates homework, and that's okay, isn't it?

What he hates about it, I've learned, is that it's just busywork. He knows the stuff. He thinks it's a waste of time to do it AGAIN when he could be riding his bike or paying Star Wars on the Wii or even feeding the cat. ANYthing but boring ol' HOMEwork.

Today, he brought home his weekly spelling list, and the assignment on Mondays is to write each spelling word three times. We battle with this every week. He hates writing those words. He's a natural speller, so he sees no point in writing the words three times each. He might as well be writing 10 paragraphs three times each. His protests are loud and lingering. He's gonna make a great attorney someday, or a tenacious reporter, or a rabid investigator, because the kid just doesn't give up when he has a point he wants to make.

Today, he made his point, and I heard him.

"Mom, I just HATE writing the words three times. Can I do something else instead? Can I think of other words that follow the same pattern?"

There's something to be said for learning to follow directions. I'm a big rule follower myself so it's hard for me to be okay with Aidan not following the directions clearly written out for him. But there's also something to be said for LEARNING. And if he has a clearer understanding about what will actually benefit him, and it's not exactly what the teacher had in mind, isn't that okay? Tonight, I decided it was. He didn't write the words three times. Instead, he came up with a list of words that followed the same pattern as his spelling words. I don't know if he'll be marked down for not completing his three-words-assignment. I do know that he'll get credit for doing the Challenging Homework Assignment. But really, I don't care about either of those things. My kid loves to learn. I want to feed that.

New York City: The Metropolitan

On the way back to the hotel, we walked past the Ed Sullivan Theater, just so I could pose under David Letterman's sign. I've always said that if I ever made it to NYC, seeing his show would be my first priority. Oh well. Maybe next time.

I was sad to go to sleep that night, knowing it was our last night in the city. The next morning, we headed to the Met, where one of my online friends gave us a behind-the-scenes tour. It was really cool to be there when it was closed to the general public. No lines, no crowds. We could take photos and be silly and stand in front of paintings (or statues, as the case may be. Ahem.) as long as we wanted.
We took photos of armour and weapons for Ian, our kid who was born about 19 centuries too late. LOL.

Darren was especially interested in seeing the musical instrument collection, and was impressed by this ceramic horn:

I love Impressionism and spent a lot of time gazing at the Monets and Renoirs and Seurats and Van Goghs. I also am fascinated by sculpture and was mesmerized by this gem:

Jenny and Nora were great tour guides. Jenny was even kind enough to buy our lunch, AFTER getting us into the museum. It was fun touring the museum with someone so intimately related to it. Jenny has volunteered there for 10 years!

After lunch, we walked through Central Park one last time, back to our hotel to catch the shuttle to the airport. I leave you with four of my favorite photos from that last walk.

I've spent time in Paris, Amsterdam, London, Dublin, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, and a number of other great U.S. cities. San Francisco has always been my favorite, even ranking above Paris and London. But I've found a new love.

Who knew I'd love New York City so much?
Who knew I'd feel so alive there?
So comfortable?
I came home and said to Dani, 'PLEASE PLEASE choose a college in New York. I want to back again. And again." She promises me I'll love Chicago just as much. (U of Chicago is her top choice.) I'm not much of a TV-watcher, but I've discovered renewed interest in The Apprentice and reruns of Sex and the City, not to see who gets fired or what Carrie's wearing, but because I recognize my park, my skyscrapers, my brownstones, my coffee shops. I watched the premiere of Lipstick Jungle last week, and enjoyed it immensely, because there were shots in the park, and all over Manhattan. It's as close as I can get to being there again.
For now. :)

Monday, February 04, 2008

New York City - Times Square and Broadway

Once back on terra firma, we took the subway to Grand Central. Maybe it was because it was Sunday, but it wasn't NEARLY as crowded and bustling as I've always imagined it to be!

From there, we took off walking again, towards Times Square. THAT'S where all the people were. LOL! Oh MY! It was everything I'd imagined, except for the Naked Cowboy. (I would imagine it was a wee bit too cold for him. Ahem.) I made Darren take a photo of the sewer steam, 'cause it just screamed NYC to me. LOL! (I wasn't even embarrassed. Everyone and their mom's dog had a camera around their neck in Times Square!)

While at Joe and Laura's, Darren mentioned that the TKTS booth hadn't opened until 11. Laura said that she had coupons, and a quick phone call later, we had affordable seats for SPAMALOT! WOO HOO!!! Darren and I are both huge Monty Python and the Holy Grail fans, so we were STOKED!

The show was great! Bawdy, raunchy, and SO hilarious. We thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. We didn't realize until we arrived at the theater that Clay Aiken had made his Broadway debut that week, playing the role of Brave Sir Robin. He overacted and seemed like a high school drama club geek compared to the other actors, but it worked for his role. He was having a blast up there, which made it really fun to watch. Here's a snap of him signing autographs after the show:

Our kids have (I'm a little embarrassed to admit) been raised on the Holy Grail. Aidan and Ian first acted out the Black Knight scene ("It's only a flesh wound!") when they were 4 and 5. Dani's a big fan, too - of both Monty Python AND all things Broadway. So we ended up getting their souvenirs at the show. Dani got a CD of the official soundtrack, and a button/pin that says "I fart in your general direction." (she laughed her HEAD off). The boys got a playset that includes the catapult, the "Trojan Rabbit", and a bunch of farm animals to use in the catapult. They were ecstatic. Do we have the coolest kids, or WHAT?
On a friend's recommendation (Hi, Cris!), we had dinner at John's Pizzeria, which was serendipitously located just across the street from The Shubert Theater, where Spamalot was playing. DEEEElicious! And the most reasonably-priced meal we ate all weekend, too.

New York City - Brooklyn

On Sunday, we woke up bright and early. Darren jogged the mile down to Times Square to check out the TKTS booth, hoping to score some affordable tickets to a Broadway show for that night. I told him to get whatever we could afford, that I'd be happy with just about anything. My top picks would be Hairspray, Spamalot, or the Spelling Bee one. He came back emptyhanded, except for breakfast. The ticket booth didn't open until 11 a.m. We'd already made a date with our friends in Brooklyn for 11 a.m. I was sad, but told Darren that it was okay: we obviously didn't need to spend the money on a show.Then we headed for the subway, and Brooklyn!

Once there, we walked a few more blocks until we saw the signs for our friend Joe's church.
When Darren and I first came to Fortress Church (in 2003), we kept hearing stories of Joe and Laura. Joe this. Laura that. Joe and Laura had ministered at Fortress for a couple of years, but had moved to Brooklyn just a few months before we arrived, so we never knew them.
Then they learned that there was a problem with Laura's pregnancy, and since so many of my Fortress friends were concerned for them, and since we prayed for them constantly, I began following Joe's blog. We met once when he and Laura visited Fort Worth when she was still pregnant with Ira, but only briefly. Our friendship was really born in blogdom. I'd comment here and there, and Joe commented on my blog here and there as well. We began chatting occasionally, and once, 18 months ago, our family actually stayed overnight at Joe's parents home in West Texas on our way to Colorado.

The afternoon we spent in Brooklyn was the first time Darren and I have ever sat down and talked with Joe and Laura face to face, just us. But we weren't strangers. It was like seeing old friends again. We were comfortable with each other, because we KNOW each other. I think it's amazing how small the internet makes our world. But more than that, I love how our common bond - our commitment to and love for God - connects us in such a real, authentic way.

ANYway, when we saw the sign, with Joe's name on it, I couldn't contain my excitement! It might as well have been on a Broadway marquee!

After church, we walked another block to Joe and Laura's brownstone apartment, where Laura had lunch ready for us in the crockpot. We were expecting to take them OUT to lunch (we'd offered ahead of time), so eating in was a huge and welcome surprise. (Yes, even *I* get tired of eating out. And besides that, eating out in Manhattan is way more expensive than it oughta be!)

Their apartment is TINY - maybe 900 square feet. Two small bedrooms (as in, barely enough room for a bed.) No patio, no deck. And yet, they're happy. Sometimes they miss having a yard, and space to get out and move around, and privacy. And they miss their families. But they're happy. They LOVE Brooklyn and NYC and feel totally at home there. He were are on their stoop (Ira was already down for his afternoon nap):

After a couple of hours of chatting and being made to feel completely welcomed and at home, Joe announced that he was taking us to the Brooklyn Promenade for an amazing view of Manhattan.

We spent a good hour strolling along the promenade, talking about how the skyline has changed over the years (there are some really cool bronze plaques that show the skyline, beginning in 1776.) Joe gave us some history about Brooklyn. Then we took another couple of photos with the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan in the background. Joe obliged us for another cheesy kissy pic. :)

The air was so crisp, the sky so clear.... that I insisted we walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. Darren was hesitant because of my dumb ankle, but in the end, I won and we did it! So cool. One of my favorite things we did!! (And it was FREE. Woo hoo!) It was all kinds of cold up there, but SO worth the views! My ankle was only a little worse after the trek. The only
time it gave me any trouble was on the downhill side of the bridge.
It was a perfect way to spend our Sunday!