Friday, January 30, 2009

Brotherly Love

After posting this photo I realize that it's not a very clear one, but what the heck. Blame my aging Mac. You can click on it and that might give you more resolution. And I can describe it for you.

We play the Haggis Hunt every year. It's put on by the nutty folks at the Royal Scotsman. It's a Big Deal around our house, too, ever since we won some prizes. (here Sheila coughs modestly and glances at her coffee mug that has SheilaOfficial Haggis Huntswoman on it) Last year Max won a very cool t-shirt with a golden haggis on it, as well as a couple of Royal Scotsman calendars, but this year we've noticed that the prizes have been toned down to mostly calendars, not nearly as exciting as t-shirts and mugs. The idea is that one searches 10 live webcams (you can see them in the photo) for glimpses of a Haggis, which is not, as you might think, a meat and oatmeal mixture in a casing. No, a Haggis, according to the Royal Scotsman, is a live creature. The most rare Haggis of all is the golden one (you can see one at the top of the photo). During the Haggis Hunt we leave the computer on more than usual and take time out each day to search for haggi. The first one found each season is the cause of much screeching and whooping. 

And yes, the twins really DO think they exist. 

And no, I've done nothing to dispel this notion. 

When we finished reading The Water Horse (a book about the Loch Ness creature), the kids instantly wanted to dash off to Scotland to see both Crusoe AND some Haggis. It's an oddly compelling game, this Haggis Hunt. 

The above photo is the High Scores panel for the game Farquhar's Revenge, one of the games in the Haggis Hunt. The idea is that you control the movements of the head ghillie, Farquhar, as he attempts to bash the head of every haggis he can find. Gosh, sounds a little on the violent side, doesn't it? It even has little Batman-like stars that appear in place of the haggis when Farquhar makes a hit, and awesome swooshing sounds when he brandishes his club. Ooh, that sounds like we actually enjoy bashing those little Haggi. Hmmm. Not sure where to go with this... 

The photo. Right.

This year Max got his playing down to where he actually managed to fill up most of the High Scores panel. No mean feat, what with all those other players in other places, people like WhteBear, Athena, and HaggisPalz playing just as strategically. But he knocked them all down the list, giving himself the top 6 positions. And felt pretty pleased with himself. Yes, I admit, you might have to be a 12 year old boy (or a doting mother of a 12 year old boy) to grasp the import of this.

Then Dominic got on, with a High Score of his own. If you can bring yourself to peer closely at that photo, you'll see his name at the number 7 position. There was much joy in the land here when he did this, let me tell you. I think he relived this experience several nights in a row, he was so pleased with himself. And reminded FDPG of his achievement every moment the day brought, a fact that did not bring a lot of joy to his exceedingly competitive sister.

But Max was still playing. And in what I considered and exceedingly sweet gesture, he continued to knock everyone off the High Scores board. Everyone, that is, but his brother. He left him on. He played above and below him, but left Dominic's score intact. 

I don't think Dominic realizes what a brotherly gesture this was, but I do. Thanks Max. You're a gem of a kid. As the midwife said when you were born (in a snowstorm): "He's a Max in a million!"

(because his name is Maximillian)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Til Human Voices Wake Us

I went to a funeral on the weekend. It was sad. I didn't know the dead fellow very well, although I'd known him for about 18 years. He died relatively young, and relatively quickly, of a brain tumour.

We went there with the kids and a friend. We got a few quizzical looks, from people wondering what the heck we were doing bringing young kids to a funeral. I thought to myself 'no one brings their kids anywhere anymore.' And it was true - our kids were the only people under 18 there. We sat down, Richard with FDPG on his lap, Dominic next to him, me nursing my sad sore stitched jaw, now minus one large molar and slightly amped up on Advil Extra Strength, and Max next to me, eyeing my wad of Kleenexes uneasily. I could just hear him thinking 'oh god, she's going to cry all the way through this thing and I'm going to have sit next to her and I didn't even bring any Lego.' The room was way more crowded than expected and the air was getting hot, what with all those people breathing and sighing and wiping their eyes. I looked out the windows at the cold, grey day, trying to avoid looking at the dead man's daughters. They were standing at the doorway, greeting everyone as they walked in. They were pretty composed, although the younger one had shiny red eyes. They were a few years out of high school.They were too young to have to bury their dad, I thought.

The service started. People said funny things, people said witty things, his sister read some of his poetry, then his daughters stood up before the mike, broke down a bit, then said lots of sweetly funny things about what a great dad he'd been. There was a board at the back that seemed to back up their statements: there he was, skating with his daughters, camping with his daughters, picnicking with his daughters, wearing funny hats, barbequing in the snow, laughing, and holding his daughters when they were newborn babies. I nursed my throbbing jaw, cried into my Kleenex, and worried briefly about having something stuck in my nose after blowing it. Nothing worse than having a conversation with someone who stares at the crevices in your nose the entire time. So I wiped more assiduously and sighed and stared at the back of Richard's head and listened to FDPG, who was actually listening very carefully to all the speeches, laughing merrily at all the witty bits and charming all the damply sad people around her. It's comforting having kids at events like these; one can be reminded that there is life after a death when there's kids around. They tug at your coat and remind you that you promised them a hot chocolate if they behaved themself and that they happened to see a Starbucks on the corner a block or two back and maybe you could go there right now instead of standing here with a bunch of adults, who are all inexplicably clustering together and crying.

If only they hadn't played this song at the end of the service, I would have been fine. We all would have. But, in what Richard thought was the dead man's final joke on us all (and one he would have loved to witness, I'm sure, because he was an eccentrically witty fellow), we were asked to listen to a piece of music before leaving. We sat there, wonderingly, until the first few bars sounded, and then it was as if the rains came. Mouths trembled and eyes filled. The dead man's daughters dashed down the aisle towards the family dog, ancient and mouldering on the carpet by the door, and hurled themselves around his neck. Sad sad sad. I leaned into Max and whispered, more to take my mind off the sadness of it all, "please don't play this at my funeral, okay?" "Oh stop it," he replied, "You adults always cry at all this stuff, I don't know why."

And when we came home, I googled this song. I wanted to know who sang it, with such a lovely voice. I cried all over again, thinking of those poor girls, mourning their dad. But I'm maudlin that way. I like funerals, even though they are unspeakably sad. When I was a kid all my aunts and uncles and grandparents were sent to the Great Hereafter with an Irish wake, and all the still-living aunts and uncles and grandparents would drink way too much scotch and sing and tell the most fabulous stories about the deceased's indiscretions as a youth. And there always seemed to be a ton of indiscretions, too. My relatives prided themselves on them. In the Old Country there would be an open coffin at these wakes, but when I was a kid it had been reduced to a Viewing at the Funeral Home. My nanna once told me that she'd been at a wake where they'd had to stand the coffin up against a wall, there were so many people there, and at one point the coffin lid had fallen open and the dead man had fallen out of it, but they were all so drunk they didn't notice immediately. I have no idea if this was really true, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least, given all the things that I DID see at some of these wakes. But now everyone seems self-conscious and shy about death. No more open caskets. No more wakes. Instead it's ashes to ashes, dust to dust, most discretely. Ah well, we can still cry. And drink too much afterwards. And remember the funny stories.

On your way, Michael.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Something New

We found this the other day at our local Teacher's Supply store. You've seen the Magnetic Poetry kits, right? I've always eschewed these, because goodness knows I need more crap interesting but ultimately messy items scattered all over my fridge, but when I saw this table top set I was finally won over. It sits in our Family Room on the little bookcase, right at seven year old boy height, and I've told Dominic I want a sentence a day out of him. Here are a few he's done thus far:

I love cats because they snore. (it's true, Toffee does snore - most charmingly unless it's 3 am and you can't sleep for his Grunty Pig impersonation in your ear)

Summer is best of all. (it is!)

I love my sister. (smart boy, FDPG gave him half her box of Pocky for that little gem of diplomacy)

I believe in adventure. (oh you do, do you? just what I was afraid of...)

Cool little item, this thing.

What To Do WIth That Old Goldfish Container You've Got Kicking Around

Why, turn it into a bird feeder, of course. That's what FDPG did, for one of her Brownie badges. The birds seem to like it, although I have to wonder if some of them think we're offering up coloured fish. We cut small windows in it, so the smaller birds would have better access than those fat old starlings.

Next week: What To Do With A Used Wine Bottle.

(gosh, think of the possibilities!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This is bizarrely plausible...

Saw this film the other night. And MAN is it good. It's been a while since I've felt so thrilled while watching a movie - everyone was so well cast. And the music! I've been driving my kids nuts playing the soundtrack every chance I get. I hope it gets blasted out of the Oscar ballpark on February 22nd. It deserves it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Webkinz Gone Wild

I blame my sister. She bought the first Webkinz that ever entered this house. It was all her fault. If she hadn't bought that first pink fuzzy disco-booted Webkinz we'd never be having the wild exciting times we've been having lately.

Like, err, having Webkinz birthdays.

Did you know that when you log your Webkinz onto the Internet, with the Top Secret Code attached to their foot, they get assigned a REAL LIVE BIRTHDAY? One that is on some arbitrary date the happy happy people at Webkinz have just dreamed up? A date where one's happy happy pet can get a happy happy birthday card from the happy happy folks at Webkinz? And that happy happy card explodes with all kinds of sparkles and bubbles that one's parents just can't hope to replicate in real life?

Well, let me tell you that they do. They really do. And it's all wonderfully exciting. They even get a birth certificate that tells their new owner what their favourite food is AND what their best friend is (and in the weird and wonderful world that is the Webkinz universe this can be ANYONE Sheila says wearily). And lest I sound bitter and ever so resentful, let me tell you that this little Webkinz pet has opened up a whole new wild and crazy Webkinz portal in our house:

One where FDPG can buy a FRIDGE! Or a BOOKCASE! Or a STOVE! Or even, gasp-amighty, a NEW ROOM OF HER CHOOSING TO PUT WHATEVER SHE WANTS IN IT. She can get a GARDEN! She can grow vegetables! Or fruits! Or just bounce the heck out of a trampoline!

Too many caps for you?


Share my pain, pal.

Anyhow, we now have a bunch of Webkinz that the twins think are real love. FDPG has a lurid pink pony with disco boots (according to Richard) named Paddy, a black Friesan pony named Patrick, a white cat named Rose, a hedgehog named Hedgie, and a blue jay named Jay.

Dominic, following in his it has to be black or white obsession, has a penguin named Wally, a polar bear named Polar, and a killer whale named Killer (but since Webkinz won't allow the word "Killer" in their happy happy lexicon he had to substitute "Orca" on Killer's birth certificate).

If it ain't black or white, he doesn't want it.

For everyone but disco-booted Paddy we can thank my mother.

Gee, mum, thanks.


So it was that the other day that Wally the Penguin had a birthday. I think he was one year old. (argh, FDPG is reading this over my shoulder and has just reminded me that Jay's birthday is on Valentine's day - gosh the fun just waiting for me) And since we'd all had a relatively uninteresting day up till that point, I thought "What the heck, let's let the twins go wild with this strange and almost creepy concept."

Go for it, I said.

The twins made birthday cards.

The twins made elaborate birthday plans: sailing parties for Wally, snowboarding races for Wally, skiing parties for Wally, hot tubs, and massages (for me, hopefully).

The twins made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Wally gobbled them down, apparently. I didn't actually see him eat any, because I was too shocked at the sight of FDPG gobbling them down. That FDPG, she sure likes blueberries.

Dominic made sushi for dinner. Wally loves sushi, according to Dominic. It's his favorite thing. Sushi with salmon and avocado and yellow peppers. Hmmm. The fact that it's the twins' favourite thing too shouldn't make ANYONE suspicious, should it?

Wally ate a lot of sushi. He made a pig out of himself, truth be told. He stole everyone's chopsticks and raced around from plate to plate. It was all we could do to keep a few pieces for ourselves. Who ever knew that penguins were such gluttons for sushi?

Then, he drank everyone's mango juice. It was great cause for great hilarity.

He caused a great deal of mirth when he finally collapsed, too glutted to walk anymore. He stuck his stomach up in the air, and smiled a lot.

He might have been helped somewhat by Richard's hand.

Happy Birthday Wally!

Thanks for bringing such festivities to our lives.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Am Not A Number!

No, of course, you aren't. You're just stuck in a weird village with weird people who may or may not be playing mind games with you, Number 6.

The Prisoner helped me through my twenties, through numerous dark days of late-onset teen angst. I spent many an hour watching episode after episode of this show, well, when I wasn't watching The Avengers with Emma Peel and John Steed (and wishing I could wear a cat suit like Emma Peel could), because there were only 17 episodes in all. And now Patrick McGoohan is dead at the ripe old age of 80.

Good night Patrick. The pleasure was all mine, believe you me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

First Lego League Tournaments, Amongst Other Things

Max's First Lego League group managed to make it to the provincials, held in the Metropolis of Vancouver, which meant that we had to find our way to the big city, so his team could work their robotic magic against a number of other teams from the province. We used to live here, which meant a few things were in our favour:

1. We could probably find a friend to endure us for a night.

2. The terrain is familiar. This is a distinct advantage in a big city, particularly if one wishes to take advantage of big city stores that don't exist in one's little city.

3. We could meet up with old friends.

4. There is a Hello Kitty! store in this city, which meant that FDPG's dream of having a Catbus keychain would be a distinct possibility.

So over we went. Max and I. The twins were dispatched to their grandparents for the morning, after which they would be picked up by their dad, after which they would cease to occupy the "Did I schedule everything right?" portion of my brain. I packed some sandwiches, some fruit, some clothes, some earplugs (because some of us SNORE), and some snowboots, because the friends who had agreed to endure us had mentioned the fact that there were massive quantities of dirty wet snow that would prevent us from parking anywhere near their house was a fair bit of snow in the area. Max and I took the earliest ferry we could manage, and hit the town.
We went to IKEA, where we bought pencil cases for $1:
Is that the Underground I see there? The Metro Line? The doodles of an extremely anal man?

We also wandered around our old neighbourhood. Max visited his favourite Dollar Max, and I visited the Hello Kitty store, where I got this charming little Nekobus keychain for FDPG.
FDPG and I love this store, despite the fact that it's horribly over-priced, because everything about this store is so darn cute. They even wrap your purchases up in cute paper. And tape them shut with cute tape.
Next stop, little sister.

Vancouver hadn't changed a heck of a lot in our 18 month absence. Some things had been built, some things had been demolished. I didn't miss this kind of stuff:
Noise. Wet roads. Vast expanses of asphalt. Traffic. Wait, scratch that - discourteous traffic. I'd forgotten how obnoxious and uneducated and just plain dumb Vancouver traffic could be. People turn while in the wrong lane. People turn when they don't have their turn signals on. People stop in the middle of the road to answer their cell phones. People cut you off without even noticing, again, while on their cell phones. Most amusing and yes, I almostbutnotreally feel cruel for saying this was watching the cell-phone talking, bubble-tea-drinking, rocking-music-listening, boys in their hot but low-chassised cars spinning their wheels in the snow, without the slightest idea that they were completely and irrevocably stuck. And did I mention that they were on their cell phones? I think I might have done a lot of eye-rolling on this trip.
We marveled at how much snow was still piled up around the place. On our little island the snow is but a distant memory in most places; here the snow lay in grubby, slippery, chaotic heaps, disturbing parking, cutting off lanes, preventing people from casual perambulating, and generally Causing Trouble.

Our friends (the ones who had consented to enduring us for the night) said "You won't be able to park in front of our house! There's too much snow!" At the time Richard and I had looked out our window at our own snowless streets and chuckled patronizingly, but when I got to our friends' house, I circled the street 3 times, marveling at how little street clearing had been going on (if any). This was one of the more, err, posh zip codes in the city, and I am not usually a Conspiracy Theorist, but boy, did they have some serious issues with their city workers. There were piles of ice and heaps of snow on the roads. Some roads were impassable to our All Season tires. We slid. We skidded. We might even have fish-tailed, much to Max's delight. It was kind of fun in a strangely compelling way (which is why I circled the block three times). Finally, I parked, vaguely worried that I was stealing someone's carefully cleared spot, then we hauled out our snow boots and slogged our way across the street to our friend's house.

There's something lovely about not having to stay in a hotel on a trip like this. And there's something even lovelier about having friends who are glad to see you when you visit. We reminisced, we drank wine, we ate some serious pizza, and then I packed Max and myself off to bed, because we were due waaaayyyyyyy across town at the ungodly hour of 8am. Sure, snicker all you like, but before then I'd have to have driven us both across town to an unfamiliar place, gotten Max some breakfast, cajoled his pre-teen self into a good mood, and had my IV drip of latté some coffee. At the time, all I could think was "Ugh, it's all so early. Why did they set this thing up at such an unfriendly hour?"

The next morning, when my alarm went off at 5:45am, I thought "Ugh, it's all so early. Why did they set this thing up at such an unfriendly hour?" Not that I make a habit of repeating myself or anything...

But we did get there. And we got there right on time. Max got set up with his team. I watched the various groups enter, kitted out for Serious Action, watched the mothers and fathers and little sisters and brothers trailing after them, marveled at the team efforts, the family dedication, the camaraderie of it all, and then I got back into the car and drove off to do some shopping.

I know, aren't I the dedicated parent?

One day Max will write a book about me, I'm sure.

It's my aim to give him lots of material.

I went to Famous Foods, which is the closest thing to Trader Joe's we're likely to get around these parts, Canadian taxes being what they are. I bought samosas, fragrant and spicy, for Max's lunch. I bought weird looking bottles of habanero sauce. I bought an even weirder looking cured salami for my cured-salami-loving husband. I bought stacks and stacks of heavenly-smelling corn tortillas. I bought packages of Hungarian smoked paprika, lime leaves, Mexican chili powder, and black salt. They even, be still my beating heart, had their homemade paté on sale. Did I buy some? How could I resist?

After I'd staggered out of there, dizzy with conquest, I drove off to a few other places, just to see what I'd missed in the intervening 18 months. I drove past new stores, new buildings, new piles of snow, and lots and lots and lots of traffic jams.

It was fun.

Then I returned to watch Max's team do their robot runs. It was heady stuff, being around all those geeky techie types. The kids were having fun, the adults were having fun, the volunteers were having fun. I had a sudden insane urge to make all my children go into science careers, whether they wanted to or not.

I took some pictures around the campus, where the FLL tournament was being held. I've always wanted a window like this in my house. This, I fear, is the closest I may ever come to ever having that happen.

I also saw some new advertising campaigns.

Methinks this one is a little on the Super Cheese-ola side. It was on the inside of the bathroom stall I happened to be in. I got a few weird looks when I came out of the stall with my camera in hand.

Are you a People On The Stop?

I don't think I am.

At least, I sure hope I'm not.

Finally, the tournament was over. I was tired. Max was tired. But we had to get from where we were, waaaaayyyyy over on the East side of town, over to the Ferry Terminal, all the way over on the West side of town, to catch one of the two ferries left to run that night.

And while I'd been having all that fun in the bathroom stall with my camera, a blizzard had started.

It was dark outside, too.

Dark. Snowy. Slippery. Far far away.

And I have ever mentioned how poorly I see in the dark? I do. Richard thinks I need glasses, but what he doesn't think about is that it's the DARK that is the trouble, not my vision.

It was a white knuckle, no, it was a White Knuckle Drive. It took us almost an hour. We drove through slush. We drove through rain. We drove down a very long and very steep hill. It had a sign telling us that it was extremely steep, but I didn't take note of the incline. I was too busy wondering where all the road reflectors had gone, and wondering how many lanes my side of the road had. We watched cars hydroplane. We watched one car hit another car. We slid in scary heart-stopping ways once or twice. I do not like driving in the dark.

We pulled up at the ferry terminal and went inside, so Max could have some last minute opportunities to spend all his pocket money. We strolled, Max deeply enjoying the fact that there were a great many pop machines waiting breathlessly for his loonies and toonies. And before I could stop myself, in a fit of Post White Knuckle Bad Driving Conditions Induced Terror, I bought a hat from one of the tourist trap stalls there. A fake leopard-skin hat. A furry fake leopard-skin hat. It was so cheap I couldn't not buy it. Besides, I love hats. And this hat was soft. Even better, it was the right shape. I'm fussy about my hat shapes.

And when I told my mother about it, she said "Oh no! You and that fake leopard-skin! What is it about that stuff?"

Here it is.

And there is my nose.

And that was my weekend. How was yours?

Of All The Nerve

This tanker beached up the other day. We went to join the throngs of onlookers, and watched the kids gasp at the relative proximity of this vessel. It was close. It was big. It had really hit the rocks.

But the residents of adjacent Posh Point were even more aghast (or should that be aghasp?) at the fact that a union-card-carrying member of the Riff Raff had managed to camp out on their lovely, tree-lined, beach-fronted locale for more than a couple of days, without so much as a By Your Leave. And that so many of us commoners were tramping through their water fronts, gaping so fascinatedly. Gosh, the nerve of some people...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Art Show

We started back up with school these last two weeks, and it's been a little difficult getting back into the groove for all of us. I miss those whatever days, while the kids are having trouble settling and sitting and doing calm, contained things like reading and writing and math. The longer I go on in this homeschool venture the less inclined I am to haul out the "Oh for goodness sakes just get on with it!" remarks, mostly because I frequently sympathize with their wiggliness. It IS hard sitting and working on algebra when the wind is whisking around the yard and the clouds are scudding across the sky and the sun is blinking on and off through the window, just begging us to come outside, but my attitude is if we break for every fabulous Nature Call we won't ever get much technical work done. Which gives rise to all sorts of Aesop Ant/Grasshopper imagery in my neurotic little brain. And being overly neurotic about the future is that's never a good thing.

But it also means that I'm trying harder to find amusing things for them to do, amusing things that involve art and music and creative fun. And here was one of them...

We started with this picture. It's in a book I have. It's a van Gogh. A chair. I placed the book, open to this page, on a bookstand in front of the kids and gave them all a sheet of brown construction paper. I opened up my Reeves Oil Pastels. "Copy this picture," I said. "Take any aspect you like, or copy it exactly."

And so they did.

Here's FDPG's:Here's Dominic's:And here's Max's:
Nice, eh? I was quite taken with them.

Houston: We Have Touch Down

I have a cell phone, given to me by my mother last year for Christmas. I hardly ever use it, partly because cell phone plans here in Canada are rubbish, but also because I rarely think to use it. It sits there, in my purse, beeping in the middle of night when it needs charging (causing me to stagger around in the dark trying to find it while listening to Richard say things like "Why do you have that stupid thing, all it ever does is beep in the middle of the $#@%ing night!"). We really only use it for Calls of Great Excitement ("Richard! I found a multigraft pear! I'm going to buy it! Gosh! Of all the luck!").

Conversely, Max likes to call me on that same cell phone when he's in a moment of Great Excitement, like the time someone we all dread having visit us visited us when I was having a drink with a friend in town. He hid in a closet and whispered all the details to me, while Richard dealt with this person. It was fun and silly, although the friend I was having the drink with was mystified ("He called you to tell you that someone you all dread was at your house? Huh? How is that funny?"). I felt slightly too embarrassed to tell her that having kids was fun that way: they can be like having a personal secret agent. Me, I like having a personal secret agent. I find out a lot of interesting information that way.

So it was that I had a call from Max, on my cell phone, the other day, to tell me that he had landed his Air Hog Havoc Heli on the blade of the ceiling fan in the Family Room, just like he'd seen it done on a YouTube video his dad had found during the Christmas holidays. He left it there until I came home, so I too could be shocked and amazed at his navigating prowess. I took a picture to commemorate the moment. Well, and so I could post it on my blog, because that's one of the first things Max said: "You can take a picture and put it on your blog!"

So here it is.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

That really should read "New Year's Resolutions" but in the interests of authorial emotion I chose "Tidings..." because it's far more apt.

We were talking about New Year's resolutions, me and the kids, at about 8pm last Tuesday evening (the 30th). My mum had asked the kids if they were going to go outside and bang pots and pans at midnight on New Year's Eve, like I'd done when I was a kid. The twins, being the young and enthusiastic noisemakers that they are, loved the sound of this, even though they were a little mystified. If there was such a thing as a Visible Thought Bubble, I would have seen something along the lines of

"Gosh! Why would someone go outside at midnight and bang a pot with a wooden spoon? Making noise just for the heck of it?
At midnight? When all the adults are in bed? I'll be the only one up?
Cool. I am SO in."

perched above their heads. Max, being the uncertain pre-teen that he is, thought that sounded weird and vaguely babyish, and said so. He was slightly scornful, too, so it kind of squashed the moment. The twins and I fell silent; the twins at the idea that they'd be doing something their elder brother considered babyish and me at the thought that Max was morphing into a slightly obnoxious pre-teen. I reminded Max that there were an awful lot of New Year's customs out there in the Ye Olde Big Wylde Worlde, from years and generations past, and that banging pots and pans was one of them. I mumbled something about scaring away evil spirits and wiping the slate clean, and he was less openly derisive, but still, that glad New Year's moment had slipped away from us.

The next day I had a disastrous allergic reaction to something, and we forgot all about banging pots and pans at New Year's. At least, I did. I was too busy itching (and being shocked at the hives appearing in the most horrific places on my body) to think about New Years. I did something I rarely do and spent the morning in an anonymous medical clinic, surrounded by the sad, the mad, and the just plain depressing, waiting for a cheery but hurried doctor to tell me what I already knew: "You had a serious and very mysterious allergic reaction to something. Could have been a food additive. Could have been a food dye. We might never know. There are a lot of strange things in the food these days. Take this prescription. And this one. And buy some of these OTC drugs. If it comes back come back and we'll test you further." I skipped the first prescription (super strong antihistamines), I skipped the second one (super strong antihistamine cream), but I did buy the OTC antihistamines. I hate taking medications but I also hate scratching until I bleed.

New Year's Eve was spent lying on the couch, drugged and sadly misty-headed, listening to my family eat a festive meal, well, as festive as one could be without me at the table. Once I'd hauled my sorry, reddened, puffy carcass into bed retired to bed, around 9 pm, I listened to them playing Radio DJ with a microphone Richard had hooked up to the stereo. I listened to Max introduce the Bare Naked Ladies ("Heeeeeeere's the Bare Naked Ladies, doing a little number I like to call "I Had A Little Dreidel"). I listened to Max introduce David Bowie ("This is 97Jack FM, and you're listening to Bowieeeeeeeeee"), and wondered briefly at his prowess as a cheesy radio host. I listened to Max introduce more Bare Naked Ladies and then sing along with them, in a sort of lounge lizard voice that had the twins rolling around on the floor in hysterics. I listened to Dominic, who spent his time giggling into the mike, and FDPG, who delightedly shrieked every single thing she knew or had ever heard into the microphone, before Max and Dominic wrestled her to the ground. Only then would she would relinquish the mike. That FDPG. She's just like her mother - a glutton for attention.

At midnight I pulled myself awake, only to find Max perched at the window in my bedroom, gazing solicitously at me. "Look, there are people out on the bike trail letting off fireworks," he said, "want me to bring a pot for you to bang, Mum? I'll help you." "No, thanks," I said. It sounded entirely too strenuous. Then he said to me "My New Year's resolution is to be kinder to everyone. What's yours?" "I don't know," I replied, "maybe to never have another allergic reaction ever again?" But inside I told myself that I would try to remember that the sullen, rude shadow rearing up now and then in Max is just that, an occasional grouch. I have one of those inside me too. And I don't see myself stewing too much about mine, so why stew about Max's, I thought. We smiled at each other across the darkness, and he hugged me, then we each looked out into the night. We could hear people shouting and banging pots, we could see fireworks arching out into the sky. We could hear the twins shrieking and laughing out on the front porch with their dad. We could hear car horns honking. I felt glad for this moment, because it reminded me that those destructive grouchy parent/child moments are transitory. They don't last forever, even if I do tend to hang on to them. And when all is said and done Max will be there, like he always is, a nice, goofy, witty, funny, kid.

"Happy New Year's, Max," I said.
"Happy New Year's, Mum," he said.

Happy New Year's, everyone.