The Big 5-0

So the BigMan is 50.  I woke up first and looked over at him and just couldn't believe that this is where we are now.  50 years old seems pretty old for people who are so young or at least think we are young.

Today I went through hundreds of pictures to make copies of for the big "Come As Your Favorite Age" party.  When I look through the pictures we were once young and did look quite different.  Our hair is shinier, our teeth look nicer and we were so much thinner!

I did realize that
 1)  We have had so much fun together and done some really exciting things.  Created people, traveled to cool places and made our own family traditions.

2) He's only known me half his life...poor thing.

3) I have two more years to watch him and figure this fifty thing out.  So far so good for him! I rocked out dinner (roast beast, broccoli, baked potato, perfect yorkshire pudding and lovely cake)...old friends have been calling and he got lots of facebook love.  And, of course, then there is the big fiesta!


Fiesta Grande!

Some people can do chemistry equations.  Some people can sew.  Some people can drive well.  Me?  I can throw a party without having huge stress.  I can think about all the things I need to do and barrel right through them.

Next week BigMan turns 50.  Yup it's huge.  Every ten years I have a big blowout for him.  Last party was a sushi and martini party.  It was epic!  Dancing started at 7:30 and lasted till 2:00 am.  So fun. The dress code was "Outrageous Classroom Dress"  --a prep school insider joke about dress code.  It was awesome--one friend's whole outfit was from lost and found.  Another friend dressed as my husband and her boyfriend came as me.  One couple came in black tie.  It was so fun.

I've sent the invites.  Paperlesspost.com rocks!  It even tracks the invites and lets you put them into a spreadsheet.  This is the photo I used of BigMan--doesn't he look happy?

Today I went to the little market near us that I use as caterers.  The woman there is so laid back, I just love her.  Most importantly I try not to dither over small decisions--everyone likes all kinds of food so just pick a few things and go with it.  Next I went to the party store to pick up all the plates etc.  So fun.

One of the most important things to remember is that it's not crucial to the party what kind of plates or cups you have.  The most important things are the people who are there...are they comfortable?  Can they find the food--drink?  Are you introducing them to other people so they feel welcome?

The next thing is getting the house ready. Ugh.  As I've said before this is not my forte.  I've hired (hello Groupon!) some people to come clean downstairs in the afternoon.  I then will put out at least 50 candles in votives, fresh flowers on the table and try to get a bit of rest before people arrive.  I like to have fun at my parties so I always hire (it's so worth it) two teenagers to just pick up and help serve food.
Ok I just answered the door for some guests who just tried to come a week early to the party!  Funny.

I like to personalize my parties.  Recently, I had a wedding shower and I went to the bride's Pinterest page and made all of the food items. She was so surprised to see Pinterest come to life.  Another party for an elegant friend had champagne served on silver platters.  For BigMan I am going to search through old photos and make some posters at the local Staples.  This goes along with the theme I have chosen--"Come As Your Favorite Age".  
I can't wait!!!!


Bursts of Joy!

I don't know if it's hormonal or chemical but I sometimes get big bolts of joy.  Sometimes these come for no reason at all.  I'm driving down the road and BAM I just want to shout out, "I'm so happy".

Sometimes they are because I have not seen BigMan in a while and he pops into the dining hall and my heart leaps a bit.  Or I catch sight of one of my kids having a good moment at school or I spy them laughing really hard. 

Every once in a while it's because I've done something.  Now this something doesn't have to be particularly astounding.  Recently, I've been crazy juicing to try to keep my people healthy.  The juices come out some nasty butt colors but for the most part people will drink them.  I get that machine going and I feel content that I am doing something good for my peeps.

I remember being in college and walking around campus, thinking, "I am in COLLEGE."

It's a little bit like thinking in good capital letters!


Little Problems, Big Problems

When your children are babies and toddlers they angst over everything.  My EldestSon would have conniptions about the seams in his socks.  It was as if the world was ending.  Life is over if their cookies break. Their cries are deep and long.

I remember when they began to have problems that I actually could remembering having as well.  That was a sea change.  It's hard to remember being upset about falling down or getting in trouble for not sharing.  It's a whole different world when someone is mean to you on the bus or you feel excluded.  That phase killed me.  You really can feel their pain and sadness.  I remember calling a friend and saying, "Oh my god the baby stuff was easy compared to this!"

Now that everyone is in college or high school it's even harder than the elementary school/middle school feelings.  It's hard to first make friends at college.  It's painful to be ill during finals and blow your grades after working your butt off all semester.  It's hard to not have plans on a Saturday night and you know (or in our case even hear) other people are having fun.  When one of the mothers of your close friend dies you begin to question mortality.

As a parent you put on a happy, positive spin on things and try to not show that you are crushed as well.  Sometimes you want to just say, "Yes this sucks but it too will pass."  I often say that this will be a short memory.  Or my favorite-"Go to bed.  It's best to just get this day out of the way. Tomorrow will be a new day."

If only they were still just upset about a broken cookie.



I secretly obsess.  And obsess and obsess....

Here is just small list of obsessions

1. Travel plans
     Yes, this one kind of sucks because I travel a lot.  I don't use a travel agent because I feel the need  to manage everything to the very minute.  I dither over flights that are 15 minutes apart.  I check the flights out of three different airports.  I spend time on websites figuring out the perfect seat on the plane.

2. Menus/Restaurants
     I always have to check the menu a few times before I go to a restaurant.  I also read the entire menu again when I arrive at the restaurant.  When traveling I check many websites about the best place to go..(seriouseats.com, roadfood.com, yelp.com).

3. Blogs/Websites
    I read a few different blogs a day.  Then I read blogs/forums that make fun of the blogs that I read.  If I haven't read them the day has not begun.  I had a serious addiction to New York Social Diary for a few years. I quit that one cold turkey and was quite proud. I check Seriouseats.com about a dozen times a day....are there new posts, are there any good pictures...ahhhh.

4. Words With Friends
     I have played someone I don't know for over three years--two games at a time.  I usually have about ten games going at once.  I play a faculty member that kicks my ass consistently.  It's the first thing I do when I wake up.

These aren't serious but they are time wasters.  I enjoy them and will continue to obsess.


Lithuania Day 2

Another exciting day in Lithuania!  This morning Woody Rutter and I headed to the American embassy.  We spent a wonderful hour speaking with people there about our programs and the wonderful effects of exchange programs.  I also learned all about embassy life.  I hadn't realized how very interesting diplomatic life could be!  What a great adventure!

After this visit we headed to the Vilnius Lyceum (a high school) where we rushed in and all of a sudden found out that we were the guest speakers!  Luckily both Woody and I are not at a loss for words.
Here is the outside of the school. It is one of the best schools in Vilnius.  It was originally built by the Soviets and now repurposed to be a high school.  Architecture was not a strong suit for the Soviets.

After we returned I headed to the KGB Museum.  A beautiful building housing so many unspeakable horrors.  The cells and execution chambers are in the basement.  It simply feels bad to be in there.  

We Need a New Word

So I dropped off OldestSon yesterday at school.  It was a long ride there-5 hours but filled with laughing, bad snacks and good music.  We got to school and he was so happy.  I was so happy as well.  His roommates are great.  The room looked as if a bomb had come through.  People were happy to see him and even willing to trot down 4 flights of steps and help him bring more of his stuff upstairs. (POM doesn't carry stuff...).

But as happy as I was my heart was aching.  He was going to stay here.  Enough of the family being complete and my heart being all in one state--hell, usually in one room.  The three kids were not going to be in close orbit anymore.

I always thought there should be a word that explains this feeling.  I am so happy for my son I could burst.  I feel my heart grow when I see him that happy.  At the same time I am happy I am sad and have longing.

It's exactly the same feeling when I was so so so trying to get pregnant and it was taking longer than I had expected and friends would announce they were pregnant.  I was happy for them but yet sad for me.  Not jealous or envious.  Both feelings at once.  I would not ever deny these friends and my son happiness...Wish there was a good word.


Meeting the President!

Wonderful time in this wonderful city!  Today I met the former President of Lithuania--President Adamkus.  He was a true gentleman.  He spoke to the young people gathered at the event about democracy.  After having visited the KGB Museum yesterday, it really struck me how very new democracy is here in this country where so very many horrible things have happened.  The young people here need to embrace and shout about democracy from the rooftops.  It is a very precious thing indeed and his words reminded me of how far they have come in such a short time.

We spoke as if we were friends at one point.  He was explaining how it was to lead such a public life and the effects it had on other people.  He felt bad about the Secret Service agents in the car waiting for him to be done at a party.  I said to him that I am sure they enjoyed their job and that they probably felt lucky to have such a job.  I also told him that the words that he spoke that evening to such a potentially important young group of people could have such effects that he could not imagine.  "You are the president and what you say matters very much to people. These young people will take it to heart and continue this dream of democracy."  Such an interesting talk to have with such an important man.  I very much liked him, his style of speaking and his very warm personality. 
Interesting interesting!


Ahhhh Lithuania!

It's very pretty here. It's also pretty darn cold.  Great flight to Frankfurt which now rates right up there with Charles de Gaulle as one of the worst airports ever.  I took a bus from the plane, walked about a mile, hopped on a train, went down 3 flights of steps, walked about 10 miles and finally got to my gate.

Vilnius is a beautiful, old city with winding, one way street, many courtyards, and walled buildings.  So many beautiful churches.  It's snowing which makes it even more beautiful. Just had meeting this afternoon and went out for dinner by myself.  Ate myself silly and had wonderful beer.  LOVE countries that have good beer.


Uncertain Times

Every once in a while the world stands up and spins around.  This is one of those times.  OldestSon's good friends mother died Monday.  She was not even 60.  Pancreatic cancer-an evil one....taking the life out of someone filled with life.  A sparkly woman, sure of herself and in the thick of her life.  It's unsettling and so very sad.  I watched my son sleep knowing I would have to wake him to tell him the news.  I always think of those peaceful moments before the world spins. 

Yesterday I also received news of two friends from college having cancer.  One, a non-smoker, who has lung cancer, another a mother of five with melanoma.  The mother does not have a diagnosis and is living with an uncertain future.

A boy in town has testicular cancer.  He is 18.  Two surgeries.  Another boy who has a tumor on his brain stem. He is 16.   A former student passed out during a hockey game and it turns out he has an enlarged heart and needed a defibrillator.  He is 20. 

All of this news in the span of a week.  Bad week.  I think of all of the people suffering from this news.  I feel tentative and worried. Hold your people close. 


International Travel Checklist

So it's the day before I leave for Lithuania.  I love to travel but I am a fairly anxious gal so I always like to have a little mental checklist...

1. Be sure to be anxious about a week before you leave.  Grit your teeth while sleeping-take ibuprofen in the morning.

2. Call the credit card companies to tell them you will be traveling.  It is not a pretty sight to arrive in Istanbul at 12:30pm and find out your credit card does not work because they have cancelled it thinking that some major fraud business is happening.

3. Register with the embassy. Probably nothing will ever happen but....STEP program.  Let's the US embassy know where you are at all times.  (Travel.state.gov   It's a good thing to check there before you even decide what country to go to...good things like crime statistics, worldwide warnings, terrorist alerts  then see step 1 again.)

4.  Worry some more.  Think things like, "Oh my god I will be across the world from my people."  Try to calm yourself down by thinking things like, "Well if I die at least the people have a good story to tell--Oh your mom died?  Yes she was on a ferry in Hong Kong..."

5. Pack a BRIGHT suitcase.  In this case black is not slimming it is forgettable and unfindable.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing the Big Green Monster come out of the luggage belt.  I also sometimes spot her getting loaded onto the plane.  Yes, she is bright.

6. Use the same driver, airport, airline, hotel whenever possible.  It makes the unfamiliar bits of traveling more familiar.  It also satisfies the miles whore side of me!  Be sure to keep track of those miles too!  Bought a deep fryer courtesy of Hilton this year for Christmas.

7. Snacks and sleeping pills are your friend!  Both make the time pass faster and help you through that ugly jet lag.  Once on the plane set your watch to your new time zone then once you arrive at your destination spend as much time outside as possible.

8. Don't pack alot.  You really don't need it.  Nobody cares what you are wearing and you barely know anyone where you are going anyway.  It stinks to shlepp stuff around and if you have space in your suitcase you can bring better stuff home.

9. If you see something that catches your eye and you think you might need it buy it.  Regret sucks.  I spent the whole movie Anna Karenina thinking about the earrings she wore in the first scene.  Yes, I should have not hesitated and bought them at the Stanley Market when I saw them. Now I want them more than ever.

10.  Always remember to stop and look around!  You are in a cool, new place!  Often times when I travel I am tired, or miss my family or feel lonely but I always try to take a deep breath and push those bad thoughts away and enjoy the experience!  You won't be there forever!  Carpe diem.


Messy House

It's not that I would not LOVE LOVE LOVE to have a consistently clean house.  It's just that my life tends to get in the way. 

We used to have a cleaning lady and it was one of those good/bad things.  It was good because it was like a slice of heaven to come home and have a sparkly clean house.  It was bad because we would have to have 2 hours of "clutter control" the night before, cleaning our house for the cleaning lady.  I also had guilt and embarrassment at some of the stuff she would have to face.  Cookies underneath the pillows in the living room--happens.  A giant spill of some unidentified object in the fridge--happens.  Thousands of hidden candy wrappers on the tucked in the side of someone's bed--happens.
But all good things must end when one's job is cut to part time and she was one of those good things.

Today would have been a good day to get the house in order. But no. I drank too much last night to do anything but sleep in the morning.  Is is bad to think of your college aged child as your designated driver?  The afternoon brought alumni games and I watched some students play basketball and hockey. 

Now it is 6 o'clock and entirely too late to consider cleaning.  I don't know why but I think cleaning must be done during the day.  I don't know when clean house people get all that cleaning done.  Mysteries of life....


No Gay-dar or Age-dar....

I can't ever tell if someone is gay.  I can't ever tell how old someone is...so I never try to do either.  Sometimes I get in a bad spot because of my inability to figure out how old someone is...

But one thing I have plenty of is the ability to spot a liar.  I have excellent Lie-dar.  Today I used that special skill.

As a teacher at a boarding school I have opportunities to have important sometime life-changing talks with students.  Last night during a regular interaction with a student I felt a bit uneasy after he left.  Today I checked on his story and determined that yes, he had lied to me.  Now this was not a big lie nor was it to get out of any kind of trouble.  But it was still a lie and really for no reason.

I called the student in and explained to him that once you lie to someone that you will forever be known to that person as a liar.   I told this poor boy that now when he told me anything I will always stop to think if it is the truth or a lie. 

Now this might seem pretty harsh.  And one might say, "Well he is just a kid"  but I believe that honesty is such a basic human need and right that it is important that every time he speaks or contemplates a lie I hope that he pauses and thinks and stops to do what is right


More Hugging in the New Year!

So I always try to think of some resolutions.  It's great because being in the education business I feel like I have two chances at the New Year thing--one in September and one in January!

I'm always better at the September resolutions.  In January I am spent from the holidays with all the drinking, eating and general merry stuff. It also always kind of sneaks up on me...

Now no one has ever accused me of being sweet.  It's just not an adjective that people use to describe me.  Every year I try to tackle the big one--Be nicer!  It's far too general and vague to really work for me.  I should be more specific ie.  speak nicely to someone once a day.  Or try not to have evil thoughts for a two hour span.  But no- I stick with Be Nicer.

So this year Be Nicer only lasted about 10 hours.  Not a world record that is for sure.  The mean thing was merited and I did not feel bad about it.  It was a biggie too.  I told someone I do care about to "Shut the F up".  But it was in defense about someone I love.  

When I texted a close friend about it she said the best thing ever, "It was probably appropriate for the situation.  No resolution solves any issues."  You have to love friends like that.  So I'll just keep doing what I do--be nicer to those I adore and care for and try to be tolerant otherwise.

I am trying to do more hugging in the New Year and for sure, that will be just for people I like!