Nico’s First Holy Communion

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Guess who received the sacrament of First Holy Communion this weekend? Nico!! Yay!! We were all very excited for him, but no one was more excited than Nico. Being the little brother to someone as competitive and active as Mikey means you do a lot of following around and supporting. Swim, karate, academic decathlon, science fair, band performances: all activities where Mikey has been front and center, or at least an equal participant with Nico. May 7, 2016, however, was all Nico. He felt like a rockstar and loved every minute of it.

He thought about his outfit for months. He picked out a suit (a lovely blue) and wanted to wear it with a rainbow tie with red converse sneakers. I almost went through with it, but in the end I went traditional and bought a bow tie that came with leather suspenders on Etsy. I figured he’d het a kick out of them, and he did. They were his favorite part of the outfit. He said he felt very “old fashioned business.”

I thought he looked a bit like Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders, especially at the restaurant we went to for dinner.

I used Meyer Market Designs for the invites and poster. Basically, Nico’s First Holy Communion was brought to us by Etsy.  The only thing I didn’t use Etsy for was the favors. We gave each family a copy of The Name of God is Mercy, by Pope Francis because we’re agenda pushers.

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That Banner Though

Let’s talk about that banner, which I love to pieces. Mikey’s banner was a traditional kit banner (I just read that post. I’m a dork, and Mikey’s chalice was the definition of elegance compared to Nico’s Liberace inspired work of art.). We still have it hanging in his room, but much of the felt has come off over the years. This time around, I wanted something I could keep forever. I pictured something I could hang on the wall alongside the First Holy Communion picture from the photographer at the school. I searched Etsy and found SewMeem. I can’t recommend the company enough. I’m even debating buying another banner for Mikey since his felt one is a tattered mess. The banner does not come with the rod, finials, or cording. We added that ourselves.

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When I told Nico a rainbow outfit wasn’t going to work for his First Holy Communion, I promised him that I would incorporate them in another way. Nico loves rainbows because when God saved the animals after the flood, he sent a rainbow as a symbol of his covenant with Noah. Saving animals is important to Nico.

I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth. God said: This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between me and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9: 11-13

So I gave his First Holy Communion banner rainbow streamers and attached $30 in animal buttons. Nico was over the moon. He picked the placement and ribbons for each animal. It was very important to him that the “Lamb of God” and The Lion were together on the purple ribbons (because it’s the liturgical color of Advent and Lent, mom).

He loved it so much that I have very few pictures of him with the banner where it is in focus. He liked to swing it back and forth. In church. Buttons flying. Like my temper!

All in all, it was a great day. Congratulations, little man.

Censorship

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Next year I will be part of a panel on censorship in children’s literature, so I decided now would be a good time to read everything I can on the subject. I’m sure I was invited to participate because I am an attorney (liberal!) who is Catholic (conservative!) working as a librarian (screwed!). They have no idea what to expect. I do. I expect I won’t have a word to say until three days after the fact, alone, probably in the shower. Then, and only then, will the witticisms, quips, and profound statements issue forth.

I’m in the research phase and still trying to figure out where exactly I stand on the issue. (Short answer: generally opposed to censorship, especially in high school; no middle school library needs erotica.) Funny enough, there are very few books on censorship in children’s literature. I bought this one and this one, but can’t find an opposing viewpoint.

While I read up on not-reading, here’s a list of the top ten frequently challenged books of 2015 according to The American Library Association. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (book club), did not make the list, though a Tennessee mom did give it her all. Bless her heart.

Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2015

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Stuff This Mother Says | Cellphone Edition

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“Well, it’s official,” Mikey said as he slammed the car door. “In June I will be the only boy without a cellphone in my class. Oh, correction. I will be the ONLY STUDENT in my class without a cellphone. This is how awful my life is.”

“Well,” I said, turning right out of the parking lot. “Look at the bright side. When you’re in the 7th and 8th grade and still the only student in your class without a cellphone, you’ll already be used to how awful your life is.”

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I listen to advice. Always have, always will. I don’t know it all, don’t want to know it all, and welcome all salient tips from those willing to share. In November 2015, I made a comment on instagram about kids and cellphones. Beth Lehman shared a comment (and follow up email) that has stayed with me ever since. Paraphrasing: wait as long as you can to give your kid their own gadgets because it is easier to refuse now than it is to limit later.

I thought this was great advice, and I’ve stuck to it, even when Mikey comes home telling me stories about his classmates and everything he is missing. “You have to be on group text,” a classmate told him. “Otherwise, you don’t know what people are saying about you.”

That sweet, naive classmate thinks that if it isn’t said in group text, it isn’t said anywhere. If only wishing could make it so, buddy.

We keep my old phones. Nico has my old iphone 4, and Mikey has my old iphone 5. They use them to play games (Plants v. Zombies and my brother’s game) on long car drives and when they catch us in a rare, generous mood. Nico will ask if he can play more often than Mikey because he is an optimist. Both know to bring a book with them before we leave the house.

Mikey doesn’t need to text his friends about homework or school–the answer to any question he may have is available through one of the school’s countless online channels. He doesn’t walk home from school. He doesn’t travel between homes. He isn’t in aftercare. He doesn’t need a phone like another kid might. He wants a phone because, as we all know, phones are awesome. They are also convenient, efficient, useful, practical, and horribly addictive. I hate how tethered I am to my phone, how it’s always there, and I don’t want that for my boys.

The other day, as I was walking into Faith Formation (I teach 6th – 8th grade), I dropped my phone in the parking lot. I had no idea until I walked into the building and couldn’t find my phone. I rushed back outside, but I was too late. Someone drove over my phone. It was a shattered, powdery mess. Adults and children hovered around me and my phone as if it were an injured animal. There were actual outcries of anger and despair. People “couldn’t believe someone would do that to me” and gave me conciliatory pats on my back. I would have rolled my eyes at all the dramatics but I was too busy thinking how could someone do this to me?

You better believe I paid my deductible and had a new phone in less than 48 hours. If I can’t manage controlled use, how can I expect it of two kids with still-developing brains subject to addiction? I can’t. Instead, I pretend I’m confident in my convictions, keep asking advice, and try to give them the best “awful” life possible while I scramble for the answers.

Reintroduction

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I’ve been blogging for almost nine years, though the last two didn’t have the regularity of the prior years. Since many readers have left and I’m still feeling my way back into a regular writing practice, I feel like I’m back at the beginning blogging. I’m not. When I began blogging, I was a married, 35 year old stay at home mom of two kids under 3. Now, I’m a married, 43 year old quasi school librarian with a 3rd grader and 6th grader. A lot has changed, and I’m thinking it has for you, too.

Here’s some more about me. I love all colors, though I’m drawn to the color yellow most often. Dusty rose is a second runner up. I read a ton, though right now I’m focused on quality over quantity. I don’t play favorites. Favorite movie, favorite book, favorite food…those are all impossible declarations for me because I go through phases. I also don’t reread or rewatch often, which in my mind is a requirement for something to be a favorite. I loved the movies The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, DogFight, and Contact. I loved the books Persuasion, Eleanor and Park, Love in the Time of Cholera, and the DarkFever series.

I despise root beer. My least favorite phrase on earth is “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission.” That’s a quote attributed to Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, and I hate it. I hate it, hate it, hate it! People who say they live by that quote fancy themselves mavericks, rebels, and boundary pushing thought leaders. Really, they’re entitled asshats. I have yet to meet one person who has used that phrase to excuse behavior that benefited anyone other than themselves.

In real life I’ve been described as bubbly, quirky, rational, and opinionated. It’s hard for me to trust my instincts. I write well, but suck and computers and get overwhelmed with technology. I think most bloggers are annoying. I once went to a conference, looked around the room, and decided I disliked almost everyone there just on principle. I’m insecure. I will always be that awkward, shy girl you knew in high school. Tangentially related: I’m super bummed that high school never ends. I wish someone would have warned me.

I left the practice of law because I lacked work-life balance. I find myself in the same position now. I want to be a better wife and mother. I feel stretched too thin. I’m trying to cut things out, rework our schedule. I want to be that woman who practices yoga regularly and drinks green tea before her morning hike. I keep trying.

Which brings me to the last thing about me. I’m cautiously optimistic.

How about you?

p.s. I haven’t written here for so long that my spam comment plugin is in overdrive. That should improve as I write more. I’m taking comments out of spam as I get them, so don’t let that discourage you from commenting. I’ve deleted an old plugin, switched to something new, and am trying a new comment plugin. Let’s see if that works! I’d love to hear from you.

 

Ready Player One | Ernest Cline

Ready Player One | Ernest ClineReady Player One by Ernest Cline
Published by Random House NY on August 16th 2011
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 374
Buy on Amazon
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In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

I finished a book and it was made of paper. They call it: READY PLAYER ONE, and it was set in a world where people spent more time living online than in real life. I picked it up because I was, like, whoa! I can’t imagine a life where people would prefer to interact with strangers online than friends and family in real life. I’ll have to suspend disbelief for this one!

James Donovan Halliday (1972-2039), born the same year as yours truly, spent most of his life playing, and then designing, video games. The OASIS, a massive online simulation used by billions of people in the dystopian future of 2044, was his masterpiece.  But Halliday, like Howard Hughes and Willy Wonka before him, had the social skills of a withering turnip. He  lived alone, died alone, and in the end wanted his company–and OASIS–to go to someone who loved it as much as he did. Wade Watts, teenager, knew he was that guy.

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When Halliday died, his bequeathed the entirety of his estate, including The OASIS, to the person who could find the Easter Egg he hid in The OASIS. To find this Easter Egg, players had to pass through 3 hidden gates and succeed in the challenges set up inside.  You also had to be insanely knowledgeable on all things having to do with the 80s. At first, everyone was a gunter: someone who hunted Halliday’s Egg. But after almost six years, interest waned and rumors circulated that it was all a hoax by Halliday in his last, delirious days. Then, Wade Watts found the fist gate. The book is about everything that happens next. Think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Matrix.

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Wade in his hideout, an abandoned van, while on the OASIS. Artwork by FLorian de Gesincourt

I thought of my brother the entire time I read Ready Player One and am buying him a copy for his birthday. It’s a fun, nostalgic (almost too much), and exciting homage to video games, pop culture, nerds, and the halcyon days of the 80s and early 90s. I suspect it’s a book best enjoyed by those of us who remember Pong, Legend of Zelda, and John Hughes movies the first time around. Everyone else will enjoy the movie, which Steven Spielberg promises will be great.

p.s. If you read and enjoyed the book, check out the fan art. It’s amazing!

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