Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My cool Facebook story

So at 5:00 yesterday afternoon I got an extra ticket to see Maroon 5 at the Beacon.  To my knowledge I didn't know any true fans.  But I remembered that a college (and Facebook) friend who I haven't seen since graduation posted concert-related stuff on Facebook from time to time.  I wrote a message on her wall asking if she'd like to join me for the show, and within about 10 seconds she replied "YES!!!"... Turns out she's a huge fan of the band.  We made a plan to meet for a drink before the show, and literally picked up where we left off 14 years ago... she hasn't aged a day and it was totally awesome to see each other.  I'm so happy to finally have a true "Facebook helped me to reconnect" story!

Plus, for what it's worth, Maroon 5 put on a great show. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Toddler diversity

One of the things I really love about the Bug's pre-school is its diversity.  The kids seem to come from all different types of backgrounds and the class looks like a pint-sized Benetton ad.  I want my kids to grow up truly color blind - when they describe friends to me, skin color should be too unimportant to mention. 

In the mean time, I've gotten some unnerving comments and questions.  The Bug's told me that a couple of her friends "have different skin," and that she "doesn't like" another girl's kinky hair.  I remind her that we all have different skin and hair, too - daddy's covered in freckles, Bug's a blondie, Bunny's bald - and that we all still play the same games and have fun together.  I'm trying to acknowledge that there are differences in our appearances, while helping her to realize that these differences really don't matter.  It's been a little tricky, and I hope I'm doing a good job with it.  I know that Joker and my behavior will impact her attitudes far more than any words ever will, but I've still got to answer those questions. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe's 1958 novel Things Fall Apart is considered to be the archetypal English-language African novel. It is studied widely throughout Africa and in English-speaking countries around the world. The book tells the story of Okonkwo, a strong man in the fictional tribal villages of Umuofia, Nigeria, who creates his own successful life through hard work and a strict adherence to his own principles. Events cause his personal downfall, which is ultimately overshadowed by the arrival in Umuofia of Christian missionaries.

Okonkwo's father was lazy, leaving neither a successful farming business nor any tribal titles to his son. From his youth, Okonkwo has been determined to travel a very different path, securing the seed yams to start his farm, working hard year-round to cultivate his crops, earning titles, marrying the best brides and building a most respected compound for himself and his families. He abhors weakness: he doesn't accept sniveling or excuses, and shows few outward expressions of love or tenderness.

Because of his high standing in the village, Okonkwo is given charge of a teenage boy who is sent to the village as part of a peace offering. Okonkwo and members of the family grow fond of the boy who, over the course of three years, comes to care for them as his own family. When the village elders determine that the boy must be sacrificed, and when Okonkwo actively participates so as not to seem weak, his downfall is set in motion. Further events send him and his family into a seven-year exile, during which time he lives with his mother's people.

While Okonkwo is away, white men come to Umuofia. Initially peaceful, they bring both religion and a new form of government. Okonkwo returns to find his village greatly changed, and he struggles to regain the high position he once had. A new head of the Christian church brings a more violent regime that is less accepting of native customs and beliefs, and Okonkwo's brand of justice is no longer supreme.

The two most compelling themes for me are the importance of familial and social relationships, and the impact of missionaries on tribal life. Throughout the book Okonkwo remains unable to express his emotions, but he never fails to know the proper behavior for any given situation. Through social norms, life has rules. It makes sense. He is able to function, and, at least early in the book, to thrive. When a new group of people enter the fray - in this case, the missionaries - relationships are changed. New values and processes and structures are introduced. Initially they can coexist. But ultimately, one set of rules must prevail. In the novel, it is the way of the missionaries that wins out. The book is easy to read but complex and thought-provoking.

Next up: The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth. It's a novel in verse, which I have never attempted to read before (nor have I been remotely interested). About 50 pages in, though, I'm thoroughly enjoying it!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baby's on the move

So last week the Bunny sprouted her second tooth. And she started crawling. The former results simply in a less ridiculous grin; that single-tooth thing is pretty goofy. The latter, however, means we are totally screwed. When the Bug started crawling, we put this little pen up around a puffy mat and some toys, buying us some time to get the stairway gate installed. Since then, the Bug's toy collection has grown exponentially in size and in scope, and cannot be contained by a mere plastic fence. This might not present such a logistical nightmare if we hadn't had to take down the baby gate at the top of the stairs. The Bunny no longer wants to be left in her jumperoo for hours on end; she now wants to crawl (and to cram gross things in her mouth, like cat hair, or shoes). Sounds like a fun weekend project for Joker!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Weekend in Vermont

Some good friends invited us to spend the long weekend at their family's house in southern Vermont. With us were Joker's two high school buddies and their families - seven kids in total, ranging in age from 7 1/2 months to 8 years. We had a blast! We didn't do anything too earth-shattering: grilling, drinking, hiking, a local kids' amusement park set-up with bumper boats and a bounce house. But we really relaxed and got to enjoy the lovely weather and comfortable house.

On of the things I learned is how awesome it is to spend a vacation with other families. The kids all played so well together (and the 8-year-old is already an amazing babysitter), it allowed the adults to cook, tidy up the house, play with other kids or read the paper. We could take turns being in charge; we didn't all have to be on guard 24/7.

I also loved to see that the Bug and the Bunny enjoyed just being outdoors. They loved the hike and the wind and the view and the wildflowers. Their appetites were out of control, they literally didn't complain (except when nap time rolled around), they shared... It was perfect.

On our way out of town, we hit a local farm for berry picking. Since it was roughly 150 degrees out, the Bug didn't quite finish the job, but she must have told me 10 times that she was having "so much fun!" What a satisfying feeling, to so thoroughly please your kids.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

National Mall, Washington, DC

Before the heat wave technically hit the east coast, Mima and Boppie visited Uncle Shane and Aunt Ali under the guise of a wedding they were attending in Washington, DC. They hit the Mall and the monuments, they took in a concert under the stars and they spent time with some of their very dear friends.

They also sent this very cool postcard, which employs lenticular 3D technology. I know this, of course, because I am a tremendous geek. That, and I have been working on a handful of 3D projects this year.