10 April 2013

I is for... Incense

I love the smell of incense burning in my home.  There's something about the small stick, wafting scented smoke through my apartment, that is calming to me.  With incense burning, I know that I can have an enjoyable scent reach my nose.  And I don't have to worry about open flame, like I do with candles.

It's been awhile since I'd burned any incense.  In part, it was because I didn't really have a good place to keep it.  Nowhere stable, out of reach of the kids and somewhere the scent could travel.  Plus, I wasn't sure what I'd done with my incense holder and my incense when we moved.

The other day, though, I found both.  And Teddy, not knowing what the incense holder was, played around with it and accidentally broke it.  I was upset more because of the age of the holder - I'd had it for 15 years - than the price of getting a new one - $1.  But there's no use crying over ashes, so I went out and purchased a new holder yesterday.

It's very similar in style to the one I had before - just a long, thin piece of wood about an inch and a half wide, curved slightly at one end to help hold the stick of incense.  On the opposite end is a gold colored yin-yang symbol.  I could have gotten a couple of different designs - the one I remember is a peace sign - but the yin-yang appealed to me more.

Now that I have my holder and my incense, it's time to make the house smell better.  I put some Oriental Woods incense in the holder, lit it, and have been enjoying the scent while I've written this post.

09 April 2013

H is for... Handholding

On Sunday morning, I drove my eldest to church for his religious education class.  It was just the two of us and, as we were walking across the lawn to the church, chatting about nothing consequential, I felt a small hand slip into mine.  And it made my heart smile.

It's the simple things like this that make me happy.  Especially since I know that I'll only have that feeling for a small amount of time.  Before long, he'll be embarrassed to hold my hand.  He'll be a teen and not want to embarrass himself in front of his friends.  He'll feel that he won't need the warm-blanket security that comes from holding on to your Mom's hand.  He'll try to go it alone without much input from me.  And by the time he'll want to slip his hand into mine again, it will be so much bigger, not nearly as soft.  It will be a growing man's hand instead of a little boy's hand.  These are things that I know as well as if I could see the future.

So I take these moments of happiness as I can.  I revel in the trust is engendered by that simple action.  I feel protective, loving.  I feel like I am the world for this boy, and I'm glad that, for a time, I can be that for him.  Because that's what a Mommy should be.

Treasure these memories while you can

08 April 2013

G is for... Gaming

I still remember my first time.  I was in the Student Center, sitting with two friends.  Eric, the one that was experienced in this sort of thing, was talking us through what we needed to do.  He led us down the path, helping us craft just what we needed.  And while my friend Alison was able to walk away, I knew I was hooked for life.  I'd become a gamer.

For the longest time, I had to hide it.  My step-mom had very negative views of gaming.  She was convinced that it was a tool of the devil and that I'd lose myself to insanity if I played.  So I never looked for a group when I was home.  It was something I just did when I was in college.  We had a regular group that got together - Eric, Jake, Jay, Jim... I was the only girl in the group.  But that didn't matter.  I was there to have fun, and fun I had.  I played a psionic based on myself.  I played a wizard (which was actually one of my worse characters - I had a tendency to do things that broke the game when I played her) in a fantasy setting. I played GURPS (Generic Universal Role-Playing System).  I played Champions.  I lost myself in whatever my GM (usually Eric) wanted to throw my way.  And I wished I could play when I got home too.

I suffered a drought in my gaming for several years.  Even though I had my own GURPS books (carefully hidden from my step-mom), I didn't know anyone to play with, didn't know how to find a gaming group.  So I created characters in the dead of night, hoping that someday, I'd be able to use them.

It wasn't until I was immersed in the online community that I started gaming again.  First the occasional game with some friends after I moved to NY.  Then with my future husband (since that fact that I was a Gamer Girl was one of the things that drew me to him.)  I learned that there was more to the world than just GURPS and Champions.  I was (finally) introduced to D&D.  I learned that you didn't need dice to play, and that you could play as easily by writing e-mails online as you could playing face to face.  In fact, for a long time, all I was able to do was play online in a few Amber Diceless Role-Playing games.  (Based on Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber.)  My world was expanding.

While Rich and I lived in Philly, I had my first regular gaming group since college.  At first, we met at a local bar/restaurant every Tuesday.  But when that started getting pricey, we moved the game to our apartment.  One of the saddest times was when we moved from Philly to Nashville - no more regular gaming with our friends.

It took us awhile to find a new group to game with.  At first, it was just not really knowing anyone.  Then there was the added challenge of having young kids.  But we were lucky enough to find not one, but two groups that had kids the same age as ours to play with.  The first family moved away from Nashville and our group dissolved.  The second is just another family and us - and we're still getting together, semi-regularly, to play.   And when we don't have time to get together because of life hitting us hard, Rich and I will sometimes run one-on-one games.  We've also had Teddy and Pete wanting to join in.  (Pete more to roll the dice, Teddy to actually have fun playing.)  It's family fun, and I couldn't ask for anything better.

In gaming, I get something that I haven't found elsewhere.  I get to use my creativity in creating stories.  I get to create something with others.  I get to have memorable moments and stories to share with like-minded individuals.  I get to be a part of something.  And, for a little while, I get to set my life and my problems to the side and be someone different than who I am.  I can lose myself in a fantasy where I am a superior thief.  A master archer.  A swordswoman who will fight to the death to protect her friends.  A superhero with the ability to turn insubstantial.  Anything I can dream, I can be.  And I can set her world aside for awhile whenever I need to go back to real life, knowing that she'll be there waiting for me to take her on her next adventure whenever I feel the need.

Running our boys through their first D&D session
   If you happen to be a gamer as well, feel free to share your favorite gaming story in comments.  I love hearing what other characters have faced!

06 April 2013

F is for... Family Literacy Day

Today was Belmont University's 13th Annual Family Literacy Day.  It's a free event that the University puts on for the community to promote literacy.  Aimed at kids from pre-K to sixth grade, the kids get a paper with six boxes on it.  They go to their choice of reading circles set up by different groups on campus, where they can either read to or be read to by volunteers made up of groups on campus.  After their stories, they get a sticker in a box to prove they've been to a reading circle.  When they get two stickers, they can go get refreshments and/or do crafts.  When they get six stickers, they are allowed to pick out a book from a large selection of books - anything from picture books to the latest book by Lemony Snicket.  It's a great way to get kids reading and enjoying the written word.

Small signs to let people know they've come to the right place.

This is our 4th year going (I think) and, as in past years, we had a wonderful time.  They host it at one of the local parks so we can enjoy the wonderful Tennessee spring sunshine. Things were set up a litter different this year from the times we've been in the past.  They'd moved the registration table inside and had the reading circles in the new baseball stadium the park had built over the last year.  But we were able to find where we needed to be fairly quickly, picked up the boys' papers and goody bags, and headed out to get our read on!

Showing the way to the reading circles.

As always, there were quite a few groups with their reading circles, all vying for the attention of kids to come listen to their stories.  Each group had a different theme (though they didn't always choose books that were exactly fitting).  As soon as we walked in, someone suggested we got to her group where they were reading fairy tales and mythology.  It was as good of a place to start as any other, so the boys went and chose a Dr. Seuss - Horton Hears a Who.  I don't think the students that suggested it really realized how long the story was.  It took three of them reading it to the boys to get through it, and then they gave each of them two stickers instead of one!  The kids were pretty happy with that!

My boys, listening as a student reads Horton Hears a Who to them.

Pete was behaving pretty well there, too.  I was happy with my boys.
We actually split up at that point, Pete going with Rich and Teddy coming with me.  They both wanted different kinds of books, so it seemed to make sense.  Teddy and I wandered around until we found a lonely group with dinosaur books.  Teddy chose the book How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?.  We were able to talk him into sharing reading duties.  He read one page and one of the students read the next.  By the time they got to the last page, they both read together.  And I think it gave Teddy the courage to try reading out loud on his own for the future books.

Teddy and one of the students reading together.

The next circle we stopped at was a huge hit for Teddy.  He saw a book that he loved and he wanted to read it to them. Dear Mrs. La Rue: Letters From Obedience School. Apparently, it's one his teacher has read in school before and he loves it.  The girls he read to were really impressed with how well he did.  Reading words like "Obedience" isn't something you'd expect from a 7 year old.  While he was reading, Pete and Rich came over, Pete having just one more story to go.  A couple of the other students read to him while Teddy was continuing to read his.  He finished before Teddy and got not just his last star but also a blow pop!  Then he sat down to listen to Teddy finish reading his story. The girls Teddy was reading to were so impressed that they gave him two stars.

Teddy, entertaining the students with his reading.
The last story was one that Teddy chose to read as well, and was one that he knew both he and his brother would enjoy. Two Crazy Pigs. I wasn't paying quite as much attention during that one, though the students and my boys both seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.  I love watching my boys interact like that!

Little Brother paying attention while Big Brother reads him a story.

I actually snuck off so I could take a picture from the bleachers of all the reading circles.  Being a reader from my earliest days, seeing so many groups promoting reading, and so many parents bringing their kids to share in the joy of reading, was a wonderful thing.

A sea of reading circles, spreading the joy of reading
Once the boys had all their stickers, we headed inside the Community Center where they had the book table set up.  Teddy looked at the chapter books while Pete looked at the picture book end.  Teddy thought he had his book - a Pokemon book, Coal Badge Battle.  Of course, when Pete saw that Teddy had a Pokemon book, he decided he needed a Pokemon book too.  Knowing the likelihood of them having two different Pokemon books, Teddy agreed to pass his off to his brother and picked up Tethan Battle Adventure #3 (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), a Star Wars Choose Your Own Adventure.  Awesome score for both of them!

Boys and their books...
After that, the boys just had to get their refreshments (popcorn and cotton candy, as well as some water), each made a bookmark and then Teddy decided to get his face painted in a way to perfectly show off the day.

And I love that he loves to read!
As always, it was an awesome day filled with fun for all of us.  I love my boys and love that they are readers, but I love even more that Belmont University puts this on every year.  If you are in or around the Nashville area at the beginning of April next year and have kids sixth grade or below, I definitely recommend checking this out.  Because you'll have an afternoon of awesome reading fun! I know we always do.

05 April 2013

E is for... Energy

Dear Energy Fairy,

How are things going?  I noticed that you haven't been by as much lately and I was getting a little worried.  I mean, 20 years ago, you were always around.  You helped me pull all-nighters in college.  You helped me stay out partying until 5 am and still make it in to work the next day.  We were best friends!  So what happened?

I mean, I know I wasn't there as much when my boys were born.  Kids can be hard work.  But still, you managed to drop by daily, kept me going, kept me moving.  You've always been so giving, and it's one of the things that I like about you.

But this last week or so, I haven't seen you at all.  No stops for late night chats.  No afternoon coffee talks.  And it hurts.  Because I really looked forward to those times.  I may not have told you often enough, but I need you, Energy Fairy.  I don't know how to make it through my day without you.

So please, please come back soon.  There's so much we can do together.  And I promise, I'll do whatever you want to make you feel appreciated.  Go to bed earlier?  Exercise more?  Drink more coffee?  I don't care what it is, I just want you back in my life.  Just think about it.

Hopefully your friend,

Dear Amber,

Nothing's wrong.  I've been by every day, but you're usually sleeping or on the computer.  I've been leaving your energy packages with Pete.  Do you think maybe he's taking them?

I'm hoping to stop by tomorrow.  If you'd go to bed a little earlier and maybe get some exercise done on the Wii Fit in the morning, you should be awake for our chat.

Always your friend,
Energy Fairy