Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - Japanese Edition

Ok - I don't have time for the template again, mainly because we have guests from Japan. So here are thirteen things on that topic!

1. My daughter is in a children's choir that is part of an international children's choral festival each year. It's held in a different city each year and every other year, it's in a city in Japan. This year it's in Chicago.

2. We're hosting three people from Hiroshima, Japan - a mother, her 9 year old daughter and a 12 year old girl.

3. They don't speak much English.

4. We speak even less Japanese.

5. They brought us some wonderful gifts including a map of Hiroshima. We asked them to show us where they live. They also brought us some kick ass cookies. They apparently know what Americans like.

6. They are very nice but I think they wish we could communicate easier.

7. They're staying for five nights. We need to provide them with breakfast and snacks most days. While we know a little bit about what they might like to eat (and we even own and use a Japanese rice cooker so we have that going for us) we don't really know what to feed them besides rice and vegetables that they might like.

8. And the fact that we can't communicate very easily makes the food thing a little bit harder.

9. We're lucky to have enough room to have people stay with us. They're lucky to be staying with a family that lives close to most of the drop off places. Some people are staying in the suburbs and the outlying areas of the city. They'll need to commute into the city every day.

10. Until my daughter joined the choir, I wasn't all that familiar with choral music. Now I love it - some of the arrangements her choir does are incredible. I'm really looking forward to seeing the Japanese choirs perform.

11. Um, I guess I don't have 13 things to say about this situation right now.

12. They only just got here tonight (well, last night now that it's midnight here so it's technically Thursday).

13. I'm sure I'll have more stories to tell by the end of the week! And hopefully they'll be more interesting than this list has been!

Check out the sidebar for more Thursday Thirteens! If you want the codes for fabulous Thursday Thirteen banners and stuff, go to the Thursday Thirteen Hub.

Friday, July 21, 2006

As if I needed a reason to cry at my desk

I usually like writing about good, nice, funny things because there's enough stuff out there to make us depressed. But today I found out that a colleague's six year old niece died in a freak camping accident when a tree fell on the tent where she was sleeping. Her parents were looking for the car keys so they could escape the dangerous weather. They weren't hurt when the tree fell but she died. What if they had gotten out five minutes earlier? What if they hadn't gone camping? I imagine that her poor parents will second-guess their decisions for the rest of their lives.

Until our first daughter was born, I was oblivious to the big and scary nature of the world. She was so tiny and I was overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for her. I remember walking around with her when she was barely a week old and being terrified of the cars and trucks and construction cranes and all the noise. I was so focused on caring for this tiny being that everything else grew bigger and bigger in my mind until normal-sized people seemed like giants. Everything was a threat to her. Thankfully, as she got bigger and stronger and as I got more sleep, the world returned to normal size. But the fear that something bad could happen to her (and her sister) remains to this day.

It's nearly nine years after my first child was born and I still feel overwhelmed by the responsibility to care for little people who can't care for themselves. There are big and small decisions we make daily that impact our kids in the short- and long-run. What to feed them and when to send them to bed, whether to let them sleep at a friend's house, where to live and send them to school, who to hire as a babysitter, where to take them on vacation and whether to let them go out without a jacket. The need for decisions never stops. Don't you wish you had a crystal ball so you could avoid bad decisions and unfortunate wrong-place, wrong-time occurrences? I do. Daily. But I know that my energies would be better spent in improving my decision-making and parenting skills as best I can and worrying less so I can enjoy my time with them more.

I'm struggling to learn something from this tragic situation. I have a desperate need to convince myself that this would never happen to us because it hits so close to home. I tried the easy route by telling myself that we never go camping. But it didn't work. The fact is that freak accidents happen in all kinds of unlikely and otherwise safe places. Ultimately, we have to accept that the world can be unsafe and human life so fragile. Although we may want to, we can't wrap our children in a cocoon to protect them. We have to do our best to prepare them for the world and then let them go. And hope for the best.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - Holiday Edition

This is my first time hotlinking to a banner so let's see if this works . . . I picked this one in honor of the holiday week (but of course you knew that already)!

Also in honor of the holiday, here are 13 thoughts I have about holidays:

1. I like them, sometimes. More now than I used to because I enjoy sharing them with my husband and kids.

2. People tend to put way too much pressure on themselves and others with respect to certain holidays - Christmas and New Years especially.

3. When I lived in NYC, I hated New Years Eve. There was huge pressure (internally generated) to do something extra special but it was nearly impossible for me. First of all, I was single with no one to kiss at midnight, feeling like a third (or fifth or seventh) wheel most of the time. Second of all, I had no money and my friends (the corporate/investment banker-types in the go-go Eighties) had plenty so I couldn't afford the stuff they wanted to do. And they weren't rich enough to pay for me, too. Apparently.

4. I'm sure there were plenty of cool, creative, cheap things to do in NYC on New Years Eve. I just wasn't cool or creative enough to figure out where they were.

5. I like Thanksgiving, mostly because it involves food. And it's food that I can actually make without driving myself too crazy. (Except for that one year that I tried to make a Martha Stewart stuffing recipe involving capers. Not a good thing.)

6. The Fourth of July is usually fun. Getting days off in the summer is always a good thing.

7. When we first moved into our old apartment, we could watch the fireworks from our living room. With all the highrises that have been built during the last 10 years, that view is long gone. In our current apartment, we can see the fireworks in the western suburbs which is kind of cool even though they are pretty far away.

8. I used to be so-so on Christmas. Because my parents were divorced, we had to do two Christmases - one with my Dad and one with my Mom (the same was true of Thanksgiving but that didn't bother me as much - see #5). It was a hassle and just not fun. By the time they were divorced, we were over the whole Santa thing so it was just an obligation to be with family. It was a "You will have fun if it kills you" kind of thing.

9. Plus, I used to have to drive over an hour back and forth from my aunt's house in the "country" (back then it was the country, now it's a suburb) with my two brothers. One time they decided it would be really funny to pass gas the whole way home. It was 20 below, opening the windows was not a good option. This was over 20 years ago. Can someone please explain why I'm still pissed about it?

10. Now I love Christmas. We have a nice tradition of decorating the tree with the kids. Last year we used the really cool ornaments my husband picked up in Asia along with all the other ornaments and doo dads we've collected over the years. The only unifying theme for our tree decoration is our memories.

11. The kids still believe in Santa which is so cute it makes me want to cry. I know A Girl will probably figure it out this year or next year but I really hope she doesn't spoil it for her little sister. (She'd never do it on purpose but stuff happens). I'm not ready for that phase to be over.

12. Then there's all those other holidays that we celebrate but are mostly just an excuse to have a day off work. I do have a twinge of guilt on Memorial Day when I realize that I haven't taken more than a second to think about all the men and women who have died on the battlefield for our country. I don't even know what Labor Day is all about. Sad, but true. Am I supposed to think of labor unions?

13. More than any others, my most favorite holidays are my wedding anniversary and my kids' birthdays. I know, I know, those aren't real holidays. But frankly, those are far more important days for me personally than Abraham Lincoln's birthday, for example. Lincoln was a great guy. He did great things for this country. I'm glad to have a day off work in his honor. But if I'm picking stuff to celebrate, I'm going to celebrate those people that are nearest and dearest to my heart.