Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Saddest Thing

There are a lot of sad things about Harry Potter… it’s a dark, forbidding tale of woe and danger. There are also grand moments of heroism, magic, and true friendship, and I highly recommend the books to adults and children, but the sad moments abound. Go ahead, those who have read and watched, think about it and try to choose. There is a plethora of misery to pick through.

We watched the first movies in the series this past weekend with the kids. Brian has watched and paid attention to them before, but for Honor, 7yo, who watches movies very haphazardly (much like her mom) this was really the first time that she’s sat through them. She enjoyed the movies very much, is looking forward to the new ones now too, and was very tickled to report to me today that her teacher had asked kids in her class what they’d done on break, and nearly everyone said that they’d watched the movies too. Some said they went to the theatre, which I take to mean that the newest one is being shown here. I haven’t been to the mall recently, so this is (good) news to me.

One thing that confused Honor, was why the kids packed their bags, got on a train, and had bedrooms at the school. When the story in the first movie reached the point of the children going home for Christmas break, she was totally confused. I had to explain boarding school. She was horrified. Yea… me too. That’s my ‘saddest thing’ when it comes to each and every one of the Harry Potter books and movies. I’ll stop right now and apologize to anyone this might offend, but I can’t help it. I’m an attachment parenting advocate and sending children away to be raised by quasi-parents, possibly disinterested or dysfunctional teachers, and god knows what kind of peers, well, that tears at everything I believe in.

Sure, boarding school might be a blessing to some, in the way a well-run orphanage or foster care system might be. Harry Potter definitely benefitted by being removed from an abusive home. Most kids though are ‘regular’ kids from ‘regular’ families. Why put them in an institution for most of their childhood and adolescence?? 

Honor thought it was downright criminal. She interrogated me with the imagination and exaggeration that only a second grader (or a second grader’s parent) might really comprehend. Part logic, part far-stretching maybes. Would the school tell them that the child had to stay? What if they didn’t tell the parent and the child got on the train and couldn’t come home? What if they told them the child would come home, but lied? She was about to lawyer up and go after Dumbledore herself. I was not a very good representative for the defense. All I could say was that the parents would know, and most likely, would have to voluntarily pay for, the child to go to school and not come home again except on holidays.

She was appalled.

Me too.

Think about it. The child has no idea what to expect (unless they have older siblings there). No trusted adults to talk to, and all that can be hoped for is random good guys, although it is also likely that they’ll end up with the uncaring (Snape) or evil (Filch, Umbrage) authority figures. Elder students are given authority over the younger – elder students who may be bullies, or too busy struggling with their own issues to bother with the needs of others. Kids raising kids? Peers raising each other? No hugs as they get off the bus in the evening? No parental help with homework or social issues? No special wake-up on birthdays, no bedtime tuck-in, or after nightmare snuggles, or other little day-to-day love affirmations? And what about the issues children go through as they reach puberty and head into their teens and young adulthood?? As Honor would say… “But! What if…???!!”


If Hogwarts were a day school, perhaps there would be fewer Deatheaters in that particular world.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Random Chaos

The kids are off to school. Husband is off to work. I’m finished with my breakfast, drinking my coffee, and planning my day. I hope it smoothes out a bit. It’s not been a BAD day (well, morning, it’s only 10-ish) but it’s been a bit too interesting for the first day of the week after a holiday weekend.

The kids were tired this morning. Too much staying up late this weekend. Couldn’t help it. AFN was running a marathon of the first six Harry Potter movies, two per night, which ended at 10pm. We didn’t let the kids stay up for the sixth movie last night, but their schedules were off and getting up this morning was not as easy as usual. Still, they got up and going well. I even remembered to tell them to put their shoes on before going in their bathroom in case the pipes had leaked more. Brian also practiced his book talk (oral book report) after breakfast with me.

O yea… first work order of the week... Repair busted water pipe under the kids’ sink. It looks like the sealant was simply old, died, and turned to dust. Possibly hastened by the warmth of the radiators we only recently turned on. Should be an easy fix. While placing towels under the sink, which she did before she even came to tell us about the mess… she’s so responsible!… Honor found a huge hunk of glass. Looks like it came from one of the glass blocks that fill the outside wall. No idea how it could have broken as the spot it came from is 12ft up in the air, behind the wall a bit (Hard to explain, but it isn’t anything that we could have hit). I’ll point it out to the facilities guys, but I doubt there’s anything to do about it. This place is so run down. The building is old and crappy. Ugly paint, ugly tiles, etc. Cracking glass blocks are no surprise. I wouldn’t want to move. Not at all. I like living here as it’s very ‘livable’ in so many ways and I like the layout better than most of the modern apartments I’ve been in locally. BUT, some days, I really don’t like looking too closely at things. If it were ours, I’d say we were 10 years past due for a serious facelift.

Anyway, the second work order of the week is the radiators. We had the heat turned on last week and have since discovered that three of the radiators will not turn on/off. In my personal experience, and this house is no exception, there are only two settings for radiators. On or Off. ON equals either “Just right” or “Too hot”. OFF equals “Just right” or “Too cold”. There is a real need to be able to turn the radiators off or on if the “just right” temperature is not happening. Believe me, I’ve tried adjusting the knobs for a setting somewhere between too hot and too cold but it doesn’t exist. It’s actually a pretty good system. I like radiators (we have them near our towel racks…  mmm! warm towels!) and I like the warm pipes that feed them as they run through the floors and make the marble tiles warm, but we do need the on/off function to actually work! Right now, we have two radiators stuck on ‘OFF’ and one (in the kitchen near the oven!) stuck ‘ON’.

What else? After putting the kids on the bus this morning, the bawab called me over and pointed to the truck. We had a flat tire. It had been needing air too often, but today, it was flat. I got Brad, and we went out to work on it, but our bawab (he is awesome!) and the guard took over and changed the tire for us. It’s nice to be looked after so well. We’ll have to get the tire repaired later today. We’re probably due for a couple of new ones anyway.

The flat tire may have been a good thing this morning anyway. As Brad came in, finished getting ready, and was getting ready to leave the house (only slightly delayed) there was a loud screeching noise and a crash. Brad saw the accident on his way out. It was only a block up, on the street that parallels ours. Problem is, that road also parallels the main busy road one more block up. Morons pull into our neighborhood and race down that road trying to cut around traffic. That intersection is one you have to inch forward into to make sure nobody is speeding through… if you don’t know to pull forward carefully, you’ll get t-boned, which is obviously what happened this morning. I’m glad Brad wasn’t in the area when it happened. I foresee large speed bumps in the near future.

After Brad left, the rest of my morning progressed in a fairly normal manner. Except for the cat jumping in the shower with me. Pumpkin lost track of his fear of water when he was overwhelmed with curiosity over the gurgle-y noises the drain was making. He was actually under the spray, almost to the drain, when he remembered that he does NOT like getting wet and leapt out. I was thankful to survive the incident without being climbed. I love that these cats love and trust me enough to run and jump into my arms when they need or want to…. but when I’m nekkid in the shower is not the time I want to be catching a fully armed (clawed) wet, panicked cat! I’m picky that way.

That’s enough randomness for now. I think I shall refill my coffee and spend the next hour or so doing some nice, calm, safe, online shopping.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Long, Lazy Week Off

Last week was Eid al-Adha, and while I hope everyone had a blessed holiday, I am here to report that we accomplished nothing, at all, of any value or purpose, and it was truly wonderful! We had a long, lazy break full of just being together as a family.

We gamed. A lot.


No worries, I made sure to use a comfy, fluffy, warm, if perhaps not OSHA approved, hand rest…


We also watched a ton of movies, and marathons of favorite series on DVD. Honor had the best set-up!


She even slept out a few nights in her ‘fort’. Ninja adores her girl, and slept in the tent with her too.

The cats enjoyed having everyone home. Lots of attention, play, and BELLY RUBS! Assume the position…


Basically, this describes our break…


yea… it was that cozy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Must. Play. NOW!

Sorry that I haven’t been blogging much. Ninja has been obsessed with playing fetch and my arms fell off from too much toy throwing. It took awhile to grow new ones so I could type again. Yea. I’m lying. About the arms, not the fetch. All three cats play fetch, and unlike Ramses, our former cat who was dubbed a ‘Siamese Retriever’ and who had only specific toys he’d fetch, these guys aren’t too picky about what toy they will fetch, when in the mood. They each have favorites, and go through phases where they play more than others, but Ninja is taking it to an extreme. I had a pile of mending to do yesterday, and it took me about an hour to get it all done. Ninja seemed to think that my sitting and working meant that I was there to serve her. For the entire hour, while I did my sewing, I had to throw her toy. She’d leap furniture in dramatic bounds, slide across the marble floor, dive headfirst under the couch. Very impressive. The only thing that she needs to work on is getting the toy back, all the way, to the one who throws it. Sometimes, she’ll be so excited about her earned praise and pets… she LOVES getting her “Good girls!”… that she’ll start meowing happily as she trots back in triumph… meaning she’ll open her mouth and drop her toy, without even noticing… and run over for the loving. Then, she’ll look up at me expectantly (‘with those big eyes’ as Honor would say) waiting for me to throw the toy. She’ll eventually figure out that she needs to re-fetch it. Silly girl, and very cute. I’m pretty sure that she slept well last night, after all that running and leaping, and as soon as I got up this morning, she brought me her toy...

Speaking of fetch, and other questionable cat games, here are a few more:

Balloon soccer


You know that this is a game that never ends well…


Below, Pixie shows off the “sit on mom’s crafts as she’s trying to work” game, while Ninja is playing her game of, “Place a favorite ‘baby’ (the puppy toy)within reach of a sibling, then proceed to growl at that sibling for daring to even look at the baby, even though her siblings know better (now) than to ever touch Ninja’s babies.” It’s probably a very good thing that this is a photo, not video, as Ninja was using some rather bad language here, and I do try to run a family friendly blog.


Taekwondo is a good cat sport.


Sword fighting is fun too.




Tired cats enjoy a good story.


And like everything, when cats are done playing, it’s important that they put themselves away properly.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Halloween has been a ton of fun this year. With the kids getting older, I worried that they' might start getting bored with goofy holiday events, but I suppose that it’s less about what you do, than who you do it with, and we’ve had a fun Halloween!

The kids’ school held their annual holiday fair/fund raiser. I didn’t get any good photos from that. The lighting was too weird for my camera. On Halloween day, the kids’ classes also held parties and the school had a costume parade.

Brian is my assassin, and his little sister is showing her feline side (more than usual).


On Saturday, a friend and I co-hosted a big Halloween party in my home.

The kids helped me decorate. Honor decorated a prize box, with help from Pumpkin.


The prizes were snakes, so Honor, and eventually Brian too, drew snakes all over the box for me. I cut a small hole in the top, and when kids won their prize at the party, they had to stick their arm in and find a snake! The night before the party, the snakes kept escaping. I was finding them, 2-3 at a time, running around the living room. Pretty frisky for plush animals. (This unusual activity might have had something to do with the cats that I kept finding in the snake box…)

The kids also helped me make Fred.


I’m not sure why we needed a Fred, but it was a fun project, and we propped him up between the front door and security bars as if he were in jail. We also propped up a skeleton on the other side of the door… as, according to Honor, a warning to Fred of what might happen if he didn’t behave.

On party day, we had one table set up for food, and another table for crafts.


I didn’t see much of this though, as we also had kids’ games going on in the back garden and that’s where I spent most of the day.

Pin the grin on the skeleton…



And snakes in the pumpkin patch…



The snakes in the pumpkin patch game involved balloons that had slips of paper inside. If the kid popped a balloon with a snake coupon, they won a snake prize, if they got a bat, ghost, witch, or cat, they had to go to the end of the line. They couldn’t see the papers, but blindfolding them anyway made it a bit more fun. At the start of the game, only the bigger kids were brave enough to give this a go, but as they won their snakes and the little ones had time to watch and learn, even the tiniest was willing to grab a toothpick and go pop a balloon!

When I ordered these snakes, for some reason I thought they’d be very small. Perhaps a foot long and skinny like a pencil. I checked the website later and sure enough, it said 42”, but I completely missed that! They looked small in the photo. It must have been a case of my ‘seeing’ what I was looking for as I had thought of putting the toys inside the balloons. Ha! Imagine my surprise when they arrived in the mail. These things were NOT going in the balloons! Not even close! But they were a big hit!


The apples were more ‘played with’ than ‘dunked for’, but we had a bunch of little kids attend and keeping the tots happily playing was much more important than keeping them in line with those pesky rules and traditions. Some of the bigger kids dunked. We had some soggy children, but fortunately the day turned out warm after a morning of slightly chilly rain.


Let’s see, we also had a pinata. I was a little worried about this, as we had 10 or so kids big enough to play, meaning, about 10 kids who could play well. The littler ones played too, but they did not hit as hard as the big ones! Sometimes a pinata will bust open after only a few good whacks, leaving many kids without a turn up to bat. Fortunately, we got a tough one and each kid had several turns abusing the poor thing – bits of candy being knocked out here and there - until it was swatted off its rope for the third time (I think?) and I declared it dead enough, and split it open the rest of the way.

DSC08631  DSC08640


You might see some familiar kids in these photos as Donna and her family were able to join us, hooray!, but I focused this blog post on my own kids … even though the other kids were very, very hard to resist! We had a houseful of wonderfully costumed kids! Hmm? What is the etiquette regarding blogging about another blogger’s kids and potential blog fodder anyway?!

The party wrapped up with a cookie exchange. DSC08683

Oh! Such wonderful bakers! So many good cookies… seriously… so many(!) that instead of the cookies being carefully split between each family, we just gave everyone, including the bigger kids, a box and turned them loose. This was my co-host’s idea and a very good one too.

After the party, when I was already frazzled and tired (in a good way!)  Honor took my picture. She told me to smile, and I was in process of leaning in to make a funny face at her when she snapped the photo… which meant my hair was in my face, etc… but I think the photo turned out silly… which is absolutely the proper spirit of the day!


Most of my make-up had faded, but I was supposed to be something of a ghastly ‘heavy metal’ rock fiend. (I was keeping it simple because I knew the party would be busy). I got a turn with the camera too, and here’s my little kitty.


Even with her nose and whiskers faded away from play, she’s still a cutie! (No, I didn’t get photos of the guys, they weren’t interested!)

I mentioned on Facebook, but I’ll repeat it here, I had two lessons learned from this. Next time, when inviting a bunch of very small kids (we had some tiny ones, 2-3yo) I should leave more toys lying around. Also, I need to wash the screens. Maybe not all of them (this is a land of not much water, so we don’t waste, and it is naturally dusty!), but at least the door between the kids and the cats should be cleaned! We locked the cats away from the party… not so much because I thought they’d be afraid, but because the doors were going to be open and I didn’t want them getting outside. I left the inner patio door to our bedroom open, and Ninja had many little visitors leaning in to talk to her through the barred, screened door… at least now the bottom half of that screen has been wiped clean ;P !  And yes, Ninja was very sad to be left out of the party fun. She cried. A lot. After most of the guests had left, we opened the door and let her out. Pixie and Pumpkin were content to stay hidden, but Ninja was out and snuggling on the couch with Honor and the daughter of our co-host… finally!

Honor wrote me a note Saturday night, telling me that the party was ‘a blast!’ and ‘can we have another one, PLEASE?!’. By morning, both kids were trying to talk me into a Christmas party. I take that as a reliable indicator that they had a good time!

Enough celebrating yet? Nope. On Halloween night, we attended the haunted house and trick-or-treat event at the Embassy. We didn’t stay for the costume contest or buffet. Kids had homework and things they wanted to do at home. It was done well though and we appreciate the efforts of the folks at the Embassy who worked hard to set this event up for the kids.

Hope you all had a very Happy Halloween!! We definitely did!