Month: December 2012 (Page 1 of 3)

Out With The Old

Each year, when I post something around New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day, I make the joke that it’s the Xth straight good year in my life. I say it’s a joke because let’s face it, any year where you’re still upright at the end is a good year. You can go through mistakes and missteps, tragedy and loss, but if you’re still breathing at midnight, odds are you can find a way to call it a winner.

That’s not to say that some years aren’t more difficult than others. There are years you can’t wait for midnight, or to wake up New Year’s morning, in the hopes that the turning of the calendar will help you put the bad things of the previous year behind and to make a new start. I know some of my readers have had tough times this year, for a variety of reasons. I just want to remind you all that, as long as we’re still here together, there’s always hope for better days ahead.

Now, all that said, it really was a pretty fantastic 2012 for the B’s. I know it’s kind of silly/obvious to say this, but often the best things that come in each year are those that you did not expect on the previous January 1. We had some great times in 2012 that were planned and which we looked forward to before they happened. But there were also some pleasant surprises along the way. Our lives are, mostly, better than they were 366 days ago, and as much for the things we couldn’t anticipate as the things we did.

Which makes me look very forward to 2013. We have a lot of stuff planned already: a trip to Disney World in three weeks, another trip to Florida over spring break, and a fall wedding in Boston. That’s a pretty great year right there. If we have a few pleasant surprises along the way, we’re talking about one for the ages.

There will no doubt be disappointments, challenges, and heartbreaks. And I’m going to do my best this year to remember that all those plans, all those surprises, are really just window dressing. What is important is the actual time spent with my family and friends. Ultimately that is what matters the most.

So happy New Year to all of you. I hope whatever 2012 meant to you, 2013 is better.

Christmas 2012

It was a pretty memorable Christmas for the B’s. Not because there were any super special presents, although we’re having trouble forcing the girls to stop playing with their Barbie Dream House. It wasn’t because of a surprise visitor, although we did have some fun guests. Nope, it was the anticipation of the Blizzard of 2012 that really added something special that set this year apart.

So a quick review of the past few days.

Sunday we had an impromptu get-together at a local family gathering point. There was cookie decorating, beverages, and kid-friendly games.

We came home Monday and prepared of our Christmas Eve traditions. The church we’ve attended mass at the last few years features one of the longest masses in all of Indiana, which is a special holiday treat for the kids, the non-Catholics, and the bad Catholics in the family. But we survived and trekked to the in-laws’ for our annual Christmas Eve feast.

We got home, told the girls that if they didn’t get to bed, Santa might skip our house, and it was like Ralphie and Randy Parker scrambling to bed in A Christmas Story. When the coast was clear, I was put in charge of assembling the Dream House, which was a dream, I tell you. I had assistance from my brother-in-law and his fiancé, and we managed to get it together without too much cursing or consternation.

Sometime around 5 am christmas morning, M. came strolling into our bedroom. She was summarily sent back to bed, and she and her sisters managed to hold out until 7:30 or so when we roused them. And then the shrieking was on.

The Dream House was a big hit, although we had to make sure C. understood it was for all of them, not just her, even though she was the only one who had specifically asked for it. She also got a Barbie closet among other things. M. got a cake pop maker. L. got a talking cash register, a light saber, and a race track. Later, when I was a customer and her ‘store’ buying gifts for my pretend four-year-old, L. asked me, “Is she a Tomboy?” Yes, I believe she is. The girls also shared Just Dance 4 for their Wii.

After some playtime the immediate family joined us for brunch and the girls got a gift from their Mimi: lunch with the princesses on our Disney visit next month. It was pretty funny. They each got a little Disney princess gift set with a purse, gloves, and necklace. With that was a note from their Mimi, which M. read aloud, telling them about the princess meal. M. read, the other two listened, and none of them got it at first. They sat there looking around in anticipation, waiting for the payoff, not hearing the words M. was reading. Once they got it though, they were pretty fired up.

It was a solid Christmas Day. I did have to say, “Stop playing with your sister’s toys!” way too much. And am still saying it too often, in fact. You’d think I’d be used to that by now, but I’m not.

Wednesday dawned cold and white, a light covering of snow already on the ground, with much more to come. While we just missed the worst of it, at 6+ inches it was our biggest snowstorm in nearly two years. I got the snowblower out for the first time since January 2011, which made my week. The girls got to play with the neighbors, including hiding in a sweet little snow fort the dads helped them put together.

We may not have had a white Christmas, but having the city shut down for snow on the 26th was a pretty decent consolation, at least for the girls.

I hope all of you had happy, warm, and safe Christmases.

Favorite Songs Of 2012: #1

“The House That Heaven Built” – Japandroids

Here it is, the big one!

This, my friends, is a great fucking song.

It is a song that, the first time I heard it, I knew would be in the running for song of the year. I’ve listened to it countless times since that first play in April, and it has never gotten old. Each listen is just as good, if not better, than the original.

What makes it great? It is a pure rock ‘n’ roll song. It’s loud and raw and absolutely roars. It’s about being young and free and not yet at the stage of life where we are slowed down by responsibilities. It is about jumping into a car with your friends on a summer night, rolling down the windows, cranking up the music, and just driving without a destination or plans. It’s about embracing the possibilities every single moment presents to us. It’s about being alive.

I love songs that are about saving the world or easing our pains. But sometimes I just want to rock.

Favorite Songs Of 2012: #2

“Season In Hell” – Dum Dum Girls

The Dum Dum Girls topped my favorites list last year with “He Gets Me High.” They nearly repeat with this, perhaps their finest song yet.

Over the past two years lead singer Dee Dee Penny’s life has been a whirlwind. Her mother got sick and then died. Her band immediately blew up, becoming critical darlings as they released an excellent album and two EPs. She has said that music was her therapy as she coped with her loss.

That grief will never go away, as many of us know. But when she sings, gloriously, “Doesn’t the dawn look divine?” you can feel her season in hell ending.

Favorite Songs Of 2012: #3

“Myth” – Beach House

Because there is always a difference between reality and our deepest desires, even the best relationships are based, in part, upon a myth. When that gap is exposed, heartbreak is inevitable.

Here Beach House explore the moment that gap becomes evident, and the overwhelming desire to bridge it. Your heart can’t help but break a little when you hear Victoria Legrand plead, “Help me to make it…” because all of us have wanted to continue the myth at some point.

Holiday Notes

I’ve written at least 2000 words about Newtown, but none of them have felt right to share here. I may yet post some thoughts about it, but for now let’s focus on more enjoyable stuff.

So, holiday notes!

Any home with girls in it will have a higher than normal amount of random glitter. Stuck to furniture, in the laundry, and just floating in the air. But this time of year, there seems to be even more. Especially in the washing machine and dryer. I did a load of the girls’ clothes today and, when I emptied the lint catcher, was greeted by a sparkling snowstorm of glitter. I can only blame myself, as I was the one who bought three Christmas shirts at target that had glitter all over them.

We took the girls to Jolly Days at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum after school Tuesday. We knew that would be risky, going straight from school with tired girls. But it also seemed like our best chance to avoid big crowds. We had mixed success. The place was as sparsely attended as we’ve ever seen it, but each girl had a cranky moment or two.

C.’s was especially poorly timed. When we went to see Santa, she wanted nothing to do with him. So while her sisters sat with the Big Man for a picture, C. sat outside with S.. Which is kind of sad, but there was no way we were forcing her up there and inviting a total meltdown.

I laughed when both L. and M. just shrugged when Santa asked them what they wanted. They’ve been talking about what they want constantly for two months and suddenly forget when they can go straight to the source. Hilarious.

After I asked M. why she didn’t tell him anything. She shrugged and said, “I just kind of forgot.”

Two weeks ago we took the girls on a Polar Express ride in French Lick, IN. I was expecting it to be awful, but it was really well done and a lot of fun. “Elves” brought us hot chocolate, they sang and danced, and Santa made an appearance, handing out bells to all the kids.

But there was a bummer moment. We went with our neighbors and I overheard the mother telling S. that their eight-year-old had informed them she wasn’t down with the Santa thing anymore. If you know what I mean. I got kind of sad when I heard that. I knew the clock was ticking on M. still being a kid at christmas. But if her best friend is seeing things differently, I know she can’t be far behind. I was really hoping for one, maybe two more Christmases with full belief from all the girls. I guess now I’ll just have to be happy if we get through the next week without her saying anything.

This week M. asked S. why her Polar Express bell said “Made In China.” S. said even Santa has to outsource to get everything done. I thought that was a fine observation and an even finer response.

This is our fourth year with an Elf on the Shelf. For some reason we always kept him in his box. I think it was originally to keep the youngest girls from grabbing him and moving him around. But over time it became habit.

We finally realized that we didn’t need to keep him in there anymore. Last night I met a friend for drinks. When I got home I took Elfie out of his box, grabbed a crayon and some paper, and wrote the girls a note.

“I finally figured out how to get out of that box! Good luck finding me!”

I left the note and the open box on the kitchen table and stashed him in a stocking.

There was much excitement when the girls discovered the note this morning and began their search for him.

I should have done this a long time ago. It makes moving him around each night so much easier.

I know it used to be normal for folks to get their Christmas trees right before C hristmas, but I’m flabbergasted when I see people driving home with new trees this week. Of course, they probably think people like me who run out the day after Thanksgiving are insane, too.

L. loves the Grinch. She insists on watching either the cartoon or the movie pretty much every day. And she went bonkers the first time she heard the song on the local holiday music station.

Finally, after a couple dicey weeks over which I waited for it to carbonate, my Christmas beer is finally ready. My first two beers were fully carbed after a week in the bottle. I tried opening one of these after a week and it was totally flat. After another week there was some carbonation, but not as much as it should have had. Finally this week it opened with a resounding snap and poured with a good head. And it’s pretty damn tasty.

So, I officially unveil Shitter’s Full Yuletide Ale.

Merry Christmas!

Favorite Songs Of 2012: #4

“Serpents” – Sharon Van Etten

Ms. Van Etten has a wonderful ability to create dramatic tension in her music. Her best songs, like this, build to an emotional peak early, then sustain it for the remainder of the song without either letting up or resolving it. It’s a tough trick to pull off, but time-and-again she does it.This song is full of ache, longing, regret, disappointment, and a touch of fear. It is completely magnificent.

Favorite Songs Of 2012: #5

“Sinful Nature” – Bear In Heaven

Chillwave takes a lot of heat, much of it with good reason. The sub-genre, which is heavily reliant on computers for its sound, often produces sound-alike music that just isn’t that good. But when the artist does it right, it can produces amazing songs. Example: last year Washed Out’s “Eyes Be Closed” was my 10th favorite song of the year.

And here is another epic Chillwave track. If “Endless Shore” was like soaking up the beauty of a summer evening, “Sinful Nature” is like being on a beach, letting the surf wash over you and then floating wherever the waves take you.

It’s warm and lush and absolutely sucks you in.

Favorite Songs Of 2012: #6

“The Rifle’s Spiral” – The Shins

There are a lot of smart guys making smart guy music these days. Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Colin Meloy of The Decemberists. But no one does it better than James Mercer of The Shins. 

Mercer shut The Shins down for seven years and did other things. But when he got them back together, it was like they had never left. They can still make brilliant pop.

Favorite Songs Of 2012: #7

“Endless Shore” – Melody’s Echo Chamber

A warm summer day evening, sun just beginning to set. A drink in your hand. Reclined in a chair on a deck or perhaps lying in a hammock. You just relax and let the world spin. Because at that moment, everything is perfect.

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