Thursday, April 29, 2010

Heading Into the Home Stretch...

Not often does one get the chance to capture an image that illustrates a life milestone both literally and figuratively...but I'm claiming that for this image...

It is Ben heading into the straightaway on the Christian Life oval track during a recent home track meet. If I do say so, this is not too shabby of a shot taken with my little digital Olympus at standard speed, and without a fast-speed option.

I'm getting an enlargement made for Mr. Bill's is, for us, an eloquent illustration of answered prayer and God's healing power as we prepare to launch BENJAMIN, "the son of the right hand."

Sweater in ICU!

Bonjour, gentle readers...

Today's post is actually more of a 'condition report', such as I used to give in a previous life when I worked in the Community Relations department of a local hospital that context, newspapaper, TV, and radio reporters would call to get the 'condition' of certain patients who were connected to news stories, and I had to find out if the patient was in 'good', 'critical', or whatever the other condition options were....I kind of think they don't do this anymore, probably for liability reasons...I think all they say now is 'stable'...

Well, today's patient is the handknit sweater over which I've labored these many weeks in my Intermediate Knitting class through the local community college. It has been an excellent class, and I am actually completing a garment (for only the second time in my life!) But, said sweater is now on life support as I have totally messed up my sleeve attachment (see photos);

Cause of injury: insufficient understanding of exactly how to do a Two-Needle Bind-off.

Exacerbated by: spine-chilling panic that my entire garment would immediately unravel at warp speed if I somehow did not arrest this row of vulnerable stitches...

Action taken: desperate attempt to avoid sweater annhilation by means of severely inexpert whip stitching...

Current condition: life support seems to be the only available option, at this point...

Prognosis: Uncertain...

Stay tuned....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Heads Up! It's Not a Game

Well, dear readers, [if indeed the plural form is not an exaggeration here], you can't say these Percolator blog posts ['Yeah, my mom thinks she's a coffee pot...']are too homogeneous...they are probably nothing if not diverse.

So, from the innocent content of children at a symphony concert [my just-previous post], I delve once again -- briefly -- into another layer of the underbelly that constitutes our cultural milieu...which, of course, is now defined as "global."

As I have mentioned before, please feel free to take a pass on any installments here that seem just too discouraging...and this might be one.

But, as a 'prehistoric' parent who too often is left in the dust when it comes to current techno-culture, I offer this as an advance warning...or, if this is not news to you, consider providing me with additional useful information of this ilk [I mean, ick!]

I am talking about yet another internet website that is blazing new trails in the cyber-world of social networking. It's called Chatroulette [as in 'chat' and roulette wheel--isn't that charming?]and evidently has gone 'viral' in terms of its popular growth, particularly among teenagers.

The following is a copy and paste excerpt from my source here, the London Daily Mail:


"It's the fast-growing, latest fad among teenagers - a quick and easy way to communicate online with people from all over the world.

"It works literally like roulette. Users log on, press a big button labelled 'Next' and it then randomly connects you to any one of a number of people across the world currently logged on. The gimmick is the fact that all of the users have webcams - so they can 'meet' the random strangers...

"...It was the idea of 17-year-old Russian schoolboy Andrey Ternovskiy. He launched it in November last year and his business quickly grew virally from 50 users to 50,000 in its first month.

"One million people now visit it each day. However, what may have started as the innocent game of a Moscow schoolboy has quickly become a potential tailor-made portal for perverts and paedophiles - proving once again that the internet is putting the lives of our vulnerable teenagers in jeopardy.

"The images I encountered were shockingly pornographic, and it disturbs me profoundly to think that my 16-year-old has been exposed to them, even if she does have the street smarts to move swiftly on if she encounters anything unseemly...

"...The site is little more than a haven for exhibitionists and voyeurs...

"...It's not a game, it's porn, and pornography is addictive, corrosive and promotes unhealthy sexual stereotypes and behaviour for girls and boys. It undermines dignity and respect for others by making sexual intimacy into little more than a spectator sport without love, commitment or responsibility."

So, there you have it. I used to like to think that 'forewarned is forearmed'...but I'm less convinced of that now. It seems more likely that the devolution of modern culture has achieved warp speed, and it is virtually impossible to stay either warned or armed.

I'll close here with a couple fundatmental truths [at least this is how I see it]:

(1) Parental vigilance will always be tiring and discouraging; but it is never unnecessary. What is, perhaps, most unnerving is how very early in life young children can stumble upon, or be goaded into, finding these sites. In some ways, they're another extension of the 'reality show' craze, only taken to a new, more personal level--one that redefines or even negates the concept of 'intrusion.'

(2) It is more crucial than ever before (IMHO)to try to instill a biblical 'values filter' into children to help them not only own a sense of morality, but also to help them apply it, by developing appropriate criteria that, coupled with convictions, can allow them to recognize harmful, devaluing content quickly and, thus, exit such sites.

(3) Let's keep reminding each other that no matter how vast and deep the morass becomes, God is bigger still. When we belong to Him, we are indeed indwelt by His Spirit--a limitless, undefeatable source Who is both eternal and victorious.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Dash of Culture

After seemingly endless weeks of keeping their little charges’ noses to the grindstone, and busy pink hands clenched around those battle-worn yellow No.2s, the wise [or at least adventuresome] parent/teacher may find it helpful to change things up with a field trip…

Such was my strategy this past Friday when the Hollidayettes and I embarked on a journey to the center of Downtown Rockford. I must confess at the outset that I entered this episode no longer a ‘greenhorn.’ Nope, I’m a veteran field trip mom, and know all too well that Certain Resident 12-Year-Olds have absolutely no use for field trips of any kind unless weapons, warfare, and ordnance play the starring role. I will refrain from recounting just how I learned this…be glad.
However, this field trip definitely did not ‘pass muster’ [sorry for the pun…too little self control on my part] in this regard, so I Anticipated and Prepared.
Dinner Conversation the night before…

Mom: Oh, just as a reminder, John, Cecily and I are going to the Rockford Symphony tomorrow for the Youth Concert, and I KNOW—

John: *eyes already beginning to orbit*

Mom: --that this is not exactly EVERYone’s cup of tea…

Miss Cee: What KIND of tea?

Alina: Cecily: It’s just an expression…

Mom: HowEVER, *meaningful look shot to the Patriarch* it is important to be open to new experiences, especially one as special as this! Don’t you agree, John?

John: *suddenly losing altitude in his kitchen chair* Yeah, whatever…

Mom: NO, NOT ‘whatever’! This is taking time and money, and doesn’t happen that often…and we are Going and will have a respectful attitude. You don’t have to enJOY it…you DO have to behave!!!

Dad: Are we clear on this, John?

John: *unconvincing shoulder shrug* Why is everyone looking at me?!?!

Ben: Gee, I can’t imagine….

Mom: Because you have been known to morph into a bona fide EEYORE on field trips that don’t have to do with shooting people, and that will NOT be acceptable. Do you read me? Ben, you making silly faces at your brother is not helping matters…

Miss Cee: BEN-NEEE!

Finally satisfied that the message had been relayed and receive [not to say, “accepted”], we eventually tucked in for the night and woke to the new day…

After making it downtown with no wrong turns (!!!), and actually finding a slot in the parking deck, we trotted out into the damp and chilly breeze to wend our way up four blocks to the illustrious Coronado Theatre.

Miss Cee: Wow! This is just like New York!!!

John: YOU’VE never been to New York, Cecily, so don’t talk so big!

Miss Cee: Well, but I know what it’s like!

Mom: Well, I’ve been in downtown Manhattan, and actually, this is pretty small potatoes in comparison. You can’t even see the top of the skyscrapers there…and it is much busier and noisier

Miss Cee: Um, I think THIS is pretty noisy…

And sure enough, as if on cue, we heard a retching sound and cast our innocent eyes across the street in time to see a homeless person throwing up into the municipal trash can. Nice.

Seriously, the Coronado Theatre is quite a place. Not for no reason is it now on the List of Historic Landmarks. It is an old downtown theatre that has been restored to its former vintage glory and more…and very much worth a look-see.

Upon reaching our destination, it seemed apparent that every school child in the Midwest had also decided to come to the Coronado for the Youth Concert. There were swarms and swarms of stir-crazy kids and beleaguered looking adults wearing lanyards and ID badges. This was the first show letting out…we were there for the second of the two performances. It reminded me of the old circus act where an impossible number of clowns keep pouring forth out of a miniature car.

Once inside, we mounted the ornate staircases to the dizzying heights of the lower balcony and settled in. Or at least as settled as hundreds of grade schoolers ever get. “After what seemed like an eternity,” to use the cliché, the house lights went down, the concertmistress came out, and it occurred to everyone to applaud. It started feeling like a Real Concert was imminent!

And, indeed, it was. In short order, Stephen Larsen, the RSO conductor, stepped out and addressed the noisy throngs. What we were about to hear was the famed series of Mussorgsky movements, “Pictures at an Exhibition.” After explaining the occasion and inspiration leading to this composition, Maestro Larsen explained that the vast slide show projected behind the orchestra was comprised of photos and chromatic visual studies taken by professional photographers in and around Rockford to illustrate or in some way correlate with the various musical passages we heard.

With that, he thanked us all for coming and wished us a Good Morning of musical enjoyment, to which many hundreds of little voices called back, “Good MOOOOOOORRRRRning!!!”

Except for my seat mate; without batting an eye, Miss Cee lifted her self-assured little chin and [of COURSE I’m not making this up!] called out, “GOOD MOOOORRRRNING, DUDE!!!”

Clearly there is a bit of work left to do in the music appreciation conduct part of her education. Who dropped the ball on this one???

The concert and slide show were extremely well turns, thought-provoking, whimsical, ponderous…an especially memorable segment was a speeded up series of tiny children, dressed as chicks in eggshells who seemed to scurry back and forth across the screen as woodwinds mimicked chirping sounds.

There was one brief moment of alarm when M. Larsen explained that an upcoming musical passage had been inspired by a Russian fable about a ‘baba’ [evidently Polish for ‘old lady’]or witch who ate children! Two round, blue, and significantly alarmed eyes turned on me: “Are they REALLY going to show a witch eating children?!?!”

Well, no, but it might not be a bad thing if the fear of it silenced a few of the noisier attendees behind us…just sayin.’ [Note to self: always remember that no matter how many times the audience is coaxed or warned, there will ALWAYS be at least one inane mother who will insist on bringing her colicky baby to the performance…and said child will miraculously synchronize the volume of his shrieks with the output of the timpani…it’s a law of physics.]

But, in general, all went well, and it was a very worthwhile excursion. And of course, our school created its own special memory there when one of the first grade boys “accidentally” found his chewing gum plummeting down from the balcony to bless an unsuspecting concertgoer below.

We can only hope that the guilty are kept anonymous so that we may, someday, return.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Car Cosy

I must admit, I am really enjoying my Intermediate Knitting Class (every Saturday for 10 weeks, through the local community college), but this surpasses any aspirations I have ever entertained...


My Knitting Teacher: This is hilarious!

John: What? WHAT? Are you serious? Wow....that is...

Cecily: Awesome!! Can YOU do that, Mommy?

John: I'd say that lady has too much time on her hands...and, anyway, I don't think you can actually drive it...


Imagine your Faithful Correspondent, drifting up from the depths of somnolence this morning...the windows are closed, so there is no lilting chirp of busy robins to herald the start of a fresh, new day...

No, instead, I reach complete consciousness as the following exchange becomes too loud to ignore...

[Salient information: Regrettably, John recently lost his prized Nintendo DS handheld game...I think this was once known as a GameBoy, but that is SO passe! Annoyingly, Miss Cee has Her Own Personal DS, which she doesn't hesitate to play with in front of John. In fairness, she sometimes allows him to use it, mainly to discern how he achieves higher levels in the game...but, alas, her inherently mercurial temperament means that one never knows when she might be coaxed into a Sharing Mood.]

JOHN: Cecily! That's not fair! You said I could...

MISS CEE: *imagine Smug Smirk*

JOHN: [threateningly] If you don't share...I'm going to get MOM!!!

MISS CEE: *imagine Smug Shrug*

[Momentary inaudible verbal skirmish...]

MISS CEE: [singing] Take ME out to the BALL game, Take MEE out--

JOHN: [more threateningly] CECILY!!! Stop singing!!!!!!!!!

MISS CEE: --to the--

JOHN: [now sputtering] Cecily...

MISS CEE:--show!--Owww! This is MY DS!

JOHN: I'm ALMOST at the next level...

MISS CEE: I'M playing now.

JOHN: OK, get OUT!

MISS CEE: No! [impossibly high-pitched giggle]

*sounds of alternatly playful and ominous tussling*

MISS CEE: Oweeeee!

JOHN: Eeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeee...

MISS CEE: can't get me...

JOHN: Hey, Cecily...I'll let you play with my gerbils....

*Imagine tiny, fragile gerbils quaking with fear*

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Not Again!


The nether regions [substitue *-*-double-toothpicks] hath no fury like Miss Cee thwarted yet again!

Who would dare go where angels fear to tread, you ask?!

I will give only a broad description, in order to activate the Witness Protection Program for Dire Cases...

The moronic culprit is one of the local drive-through coffee bar franchises which has now -- twice consecutively!-- failed to deliver. It gets worse...on each of these two occasions, I, the HRA [Hapless Responsible Adult] have asked and ascertained that said establishment did indeed have blueberry muffins available. Further, I have ordered one such pastry for my IC [Insistent Consumer].

Only to come away from the drive-thru window with a latte (not always the correct size), but SANS MUFFIN!!!

Are you kidding me? Do they not know with WHOM they are dealing? Or, more precisely, into WHOSE disappointed busy pink hands they are delivering me? Is there not a Geneva Convention that covers this type of egregious infraction? Call Secretary Clinton, asap!!

Last time, I explained to the questionably competent window attendant that she had shorted me a muffin.

"Oh, you ordered a muffin?"

Um, yes. Actually, my Hard-to-Ignore Passenger ordered it. She's the one whose teeth are now gleaming in your security mirror.

"I don't think I charged you for that...would you like me to ring up another transaction?"

Dilemma: I could all but feel the imaginary pistol barrel boring in on one of my thoracic vertebrae. At the same time, there appeared to be a startlingly long queue of caffeine-deprived drivers behind me...

"I guess I'll get it next time..." I wimped out.

As I eased out of the drive-thru, I pleaded for clemency and desperately anted up with a promise of Wendy's for lunch (on which I delivered! I know when not to press my luck...)

If only the same could be said for The Establishment Which Shall Remain Anonymous.

Fast-forward to this morning. Having broken through my previously impenetrable wall of slothfulness (exacerbated by my current quest to achieve a nightly somnolent state without benefit of Lunesta....which, I just discovered, costs $7.50 per pill!!!...but that is another post) this morning by going to the health club at 5:40 this morning (applause is appreciated), I decided it would be Effective Positive Reinforcement to get myself a 'skinny latte' after dropping Ben off at track practice...

"Good morning! Welcome to ***[our name is mud]*** What can I get for you?"

Do you have any blueberry muffins this morning?

"Um, yes, we have two left."

I'll take one of those, please. And a whip.

"Thank you! Please pull ahead to the window!!"

Of course, I think it is always suspect, and no doubt part of the problem, that the owner of the chirpy sing-song voice just quoted never seems to be the same person who takes your payment and hands over the goods. In my haste to hoist that first sip, and with the burgeoning queue again in my rearview mirror, I pulled out...only to realize the Absence of the Muffin. Check the, I was not charged for it...check the length of the least six more vehicles...clearly this aversion to muffin-selling is not advsersely affecting their business...ha! it adversely affects MY business!!!

Back at home, I try to conceal my cup as I enter the kitchen...but the glinting eagle eye has already spied it.

"Hi, Mommy! I see you went to ***[their name is mud]*** did you get me a blueberry muffin?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Steeling myself, I recount the sorry saga.

"Well! I think we need to go there and say HEY!!!! WE REALLY, REALLY WANT JUST ONE BLUEBERRY MUFFIN!!!!!!!!!! Oh, and a CUPPA COFFEE!!!!"

I guess you just have to know how to put it to them....[to be continued]....