Happy Easter!

I have no idea how we are at Easter already because I just put away the Christmas tree.  Someone told me that life zooms by once your kids get in school and I was all “Whatever.  Please, a day is a day is a day and 24 hours passes at the same pace, one minute at a time, no matter how old your kids are.”  And now I’m all “Giiirrrllll??  You was so right.”

Anyway, this is actually the chorus to a Christmas song (<– not joking, I totally didn’t plan this) but really, it’s an Easter song:

The Babe in the manger was God’s only Son

Who came to the world to die

The Babe in the manger could never have done

The work of His God on high.

The Babe left the manger and went to the cross

To pay the wages of sin

Your way of forgiveness is not by the babe

But the Christ Who died for your sin.

Thank goodness the chorus doesn’t really end there, because it’s Easter and as the Angel said to Mary (“Mary Magdelene, Mom”, according to the nine year old):

“Why seek you the living among the dead?  He is not here for He has risen, just like He said.”


Happy Easter!




Reminds Me of Something That Hasn’t Happened Yet

Subtitle:  How To Train Your Sons to Date a Lady

(Or their Mother, if a lady is unavailable.)

A few weeks ago, my nine-year-old asked me out on a date.  He wanted to go to Perry’s Steakhouse, and he wanted to rent a tuxedo for the occasion.  I can only imagine what thought process brought him to those decisions…I don’t second-guess Michael anymore.  Trying to understand his motivation is an exercise in futility, and it takes away from the fun of just going with his ideas and seeing where you land.  Usually it’s upright and in a recognizable location, though the odds are not always in your favor.

We started out by going to the local Al’s Formal Wear at the height of Prom/June Wedding Preparation season.  I swear, I have never wanted to warn some of these men so badly in my life:  “Run!  Fast and far!  If she’s that particular about the direction of the tone-on-tone pattern on a swatch of fabric that is five inches by five inches and really only about two square inches of that will ever even be seen poking out of a jacket pocket, then YOU ARE SCREWED.”

Of course I didn’t say that anywhere but my head.  Girls/ladies, really?  He’s there, he’s renting the tux for you, let the rest go.

Michael handled 99% of the transaction himself, which is to say that I paid the rental fee and did nothing else but take pictures.  Here he is deciding between the notched lapel and the up-turned one (honestly, I saw no difference but what do I know?):

Teach your son how to date a lady

Hmm...which lapel to choose?

Teach your son how to date a lady

Measuring for the shirt. Check out that pose...

The woman working had a field day with him, she was into his story, LOL.  He was not a fan of the way the dress slacks hang, he said the crotch was too low.  GOOD MAN.  Not a fan of the saggy-crotch look myself.  She was able to convince him that that’s just how they roll in tuxedo world, and he got over it.  I thought the jacket she had him try on was too small, but he liked it.  (She was right, the one I liked would have been way too big, which is why they are experts at Al’s and I am an expert at…not that.)

The thing that struck me as so much fun was when his older brother wanted to help him get dressed.  At 5:00 (our reservations were at 6), they took the tux and all the trimmings upstairs and set to work.  I honestly tried to stay out of it and then remembered that I am, in fact, me so up I went, camera in hand.  The thing is, I could hardly watch without mentally skipping ahead 15 or 20 years to his wedding day.  He’d be in a room and his brother would be right there next to him like he has always, always been and they would be laughing and cutting up and strangling each other with bow ties and throwing the cufflinks around the room (we later found them all, though I have to question where all the six-armed men are that rent tuxedos) and generally having a ball.  Worth the price of admission for that scene alone.

Teach your son how to date a lady

How many times have I seen them in this pose? TOO MANY TO COUNT.

Teach your son how to date a lady

It's all starting to come together...

When they were all done, Michael came down looking like this:

Teach your son how to date a lady

Be still my beating heart. Also? Need to revisit not blowing out the whites. Photography fail.

And all at once I’m the Mom on prom night, herding all the kids into the back yard for pictures before the kids head off to dinner and to dance the night away.  Then, a few years later, I’m the Mother of the Groom, dressed in some fancy gown that he’s helped me pick out for his big day.  I’ve never seen the future so clearly before, but there it was, standing three feet away in black and white.

We arrived at Perry’s slightly ahead of schedule, and valet parked.  Always cracks me up to do that in my old 2001 XTerra which, no matter how you qualify it, looks not unlike a total beater.  It had been washed recently, but you can totally still make out the scratches on the back left quarter panel where the boys played tic-tac-toe with a set of keys when they were who knows what age.  No shame in my game though, it still runs, and better?  PAID FOR.

Michael walked me up to the front door and opened it for me, then announced himself to the hostess and the manager at the front desk, confirming his 6:00 reservation.  They asked him if he wanted a booth or a table:  “Um…I think booth.”  We were escorted to a lovely spot, and he went on and on about how fancy and special the dining room was and didn’t I just love it?  Totally did.

He ordered a Sprite and I ordered a Diet Coke and we split two loaves of their awesome sourdough bread, which is to say that I ate a slice and Michael inhaled the rest.  He ordered the eight ounce filet, cooked medium well.  He did it all by himself, I just sat and listened as he spoke clearly and firmly to the sweet waitress.  I think her name was Julie, she was awesome.   The meal was fantastic, he loved the steak.  He was not a fan of the au gratin potatoes, but I ate his portion since he skunked me on the bread, so we’ll call it even.  Dessert was warm chocolate cake with a dollop of ice cream.  Note to Perry’s:  serve Blue Bell, it’s way better than the fake scandinavian-sounding brand and hello?  This is Texas.  Support the home team, folks!

Dessert finished, the little man paid the bill and we were on our way:

Teach your son how to date a lady

He was so proud of his adult-like signature. "See that? That's how a man signs his name."

He had been planning this night for a long time, and it was just as he hoped it would be.  I got a chance to show him how to hold his arm out for a lady (or his Mother, lol), how to stand if she needs to get up from the table, how to walk around and tip the valet as you help your date into the car, all of the things he’ll need to know as he gets older.  Somewhere in the world, there’s a little girl who will be thankful.  She’ll be the luckiest girl on the planet.  =)



P.S.  He can also iron clothes, sew, and kill spiders and June bugs with the best of them.  Just sayin’…

P.S.S.  More pictures here.

Katy, Texas Football Farm Leagues: Spring Gridiron League Game 1

Friday Night Lights has nothing on Katy, TX.

You know our high school has had the number one team in the state a bazillion times (ok, six, but that’s still a lot), right?  Well, I’m about to explain to you why…

In baseball, you have college ball and then the farm leagues:  double-A, triple-A, then The Show, as Nuke LaLoosh found out in Bull Durham.  Football ostensibly has no such path to success.  It’s pretty much high school then college and then recruitment to the NFL if you’re good enough.  If you’re not good enough for the pros, you’re just done after college.

To make up for that lack of a farm system and to ensure that Texas will always have more people in the NFL from this state than any other by a factor of three, what the Katy community does is stalk the delivery floors of local hospitals and any male child over 8 lbs is recruited for a high school team on the spot.  Kidding.  Only not really.  If I had a nickel for every time I rolled my eyes at how into this sport people are, and for every time someone would stop me at Kroger and tell me my boys were destined to be linebackers given their size at fifteen months of age, and for every time I subsequently commented that neither of my boys would ever play such a barbaric and injury-laden sport, I’d be assured to keep my newfound SAHM status indefinitely.  So of course you know how the story ends, right?

My boys play football.  And they are both linebackers.  Of course they are.

My older son has played for three seasons already at the ripe old age of 11.  Funnily enough, that is a ripe old age because 90% of his team when he played for the first time in the 4th grade had all been playing for at least two seasons.  There are probably toddler leagues out there I don’t know of.  While I’m happily teaching my children the alphabet and stressing over the fact that they refuse to learn their colors, these people evidently had their sons out on the field practicing the Tight End Reverse and I-Formation offense.  It’s crazy.

This Spring, my younger son got into the act for the first time.  He gets beat to death taught how to play routinely by his older brother in the side yard of our home, so he’s not unfamiliar with the sport.  He’s actually pretty big for his age and by the looks of him you’d think he’d be a real bruiser.  This is his first official season though, and I was unsure how he’d handle it.  He has sensory issues and was most unhappy with his helmet…he looked up at the salesman at Brammer’s (the place to get sporting equipment in Katy, anddontyouforgetit) and said, in all sincerity, “These helmets are not very comfortable.”  Right.  Welcome to football, son!

I have to admit to some reservations about son #2’s coach.  He was very in to it at the pre-season Parent Meeting.  All “Go buy the pants with the pads already sewn in because we’ve timed them running?  And turns out the kids are so much faster with those pants vs the ones where the pads have to be slipped into the pockets.”  Huh?  You’ve timed them?  And noticed a difference in speed?  What have I gotten myself into…

This Saturday though, I have to say my opinion turned on a dime.  This coach really is fantastic with the kids, and his wife is the Best Team Mom Ever.  Seriously.  Played a lot of sports myself, exposed the boys to lots of sports, seen a lot of Team Moms.  She rocks.  She had this little pump-pressurized squirt bottle, the kind that you use to spray pesticide on your plants if you don’t have a bug guy, and filled it with water to mist the kids down at halftime and before the game.  Seriously prepared.  She was clearly a girl scout, or has been Team Mom-ing in Katy for a good long time because she’s got the drill down, baby.

When it was all said and done, we went one and one for the weekend.  One win, one loss.  Next week is a bye for the younger son, so they’ll have a chance to assess the loss and probably sit in a room somewhere at tonight’s practice and review the tape.  (People seriously video tape nine and 10 year olds playing, folks.)

Honestly, I can’t believe I’m here.  Here meaning “at a place where I have children playing football in a state where Football is King and holy cow I have sold out and am now playing into the whole machine, aren’t I?”  Aren’t I now one of the people I scoffed at?  One of the people out under an umbrella on a scorching Saturday morning, the people that I used to laugh and laugh at as I drove by in my air-conditioned car, on the way to a leisurely late breakfast.  One of “those moms” who buys a football jersey (cut for women’s figures, of course, because they actually make such a thing…and sell it at Brammer’s) with her sons’ team name on it to wear for the games.

I am indeed.  And I now carry around a bottle of salt with which to season the words that come out of my mouth, as I will surely someday eat them.



Flat Stanley vs. The Blogess Chicken (aka, Beyonce)

It all started when someone on a parenting board that I live on frequent opened up a can of hatorade on the Flat Stanley project.  I’ll never understand the need to deride something like this, something so wholesome and full of learning possibilities for The Children.  (You have to say that wistfully and with a tone full of reverence, like Maria and Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, or it doesn’t count.)  This normally sweet woman had gone on and on about how much of a pain it was, and how the “friend” for whom she’d completed the project didn’t even appreciate all her hard work.  The nerve of some people.

So when a woman on the same parenting board mentioned that her son was now doing the project, I was all over it.  Send me your poor, your tired, your hungry, and your Flat Stanleys and I will adventure the ever-loving life out of that little guy.  I LOVE THIS PROJECT.

Three days after agreeing to take it on, I got a package from the Great White North of Minnesota.  This dear woman had said she was going to send me a pre-paid return envelope to send him and the pictures back in, and indeed she did.  That should have been my first clue that something was remiss.  Flat Stanley needs his own pre-paid envelope?  We’re talking an eight inch by six inch laminated guy in a blue shirt.  Or are we?  Evidently, we are not.  What we are talking about instead is a life-size, butcher-paper drawn likeness of the eight-year-old little boy who is actually reading the book about Flat Stanley, and said likeness is almost my size.  So large is this Flat Stanley, that I felt the need to properly restrain him when taking him on his adventures, lest I be ticketed.  To whit:

Candid Canon - Flat Stanley vs. The Blogess Chicken (aka, Beyonce)

Yes, that's a bag of Doritos on the seat. What? You thought I wouldn't feed him?

Are you even kidding me with this?

This is clearly not what I signed up for.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to pose something like that?  The real Flat Stanley, as aforementioned, is laminated.  That means he is somewhat rigid, in design if not in his belief system, and therefore far more, you know, pose-able.  This guy?  He looks like something out of CSI:

Candid Canon - Flat Stanley vs. The Blogess Chicken (aka, Beyonce)

Tell me that does not look like a dead body outline. Go ahead.

He flops all over the place and requires a roll or two of tape or a prop-master to help you get him into position.   To say nothing of the fact that it’s March in Texas and we have wind gusts that knock over all but the sturdiest of people and he becomes a serious flight risk.  I took him to Austin with my Mom (we were actually there to see her Aunt, my Great Aunt, and took him along) and I’ll be darned if we didn’t nearly lose him on the side of the road.  At the Birthplace of Texas, no less.

Candid Canon - Flat Stanley vs. The Blogess Chicken (aka, Beyonce)

Mother is holding on to him for dear life, lest he fly away to worlds unknown. Or to Brenham, whichever's closer.

I’m telling you, to say this was a challenge is an understatement.  But we soldiered on and took him to my Alma Mater, The University of Texas at Austin.  We parked along Sorority Row so that we could just walk over to the fountain and snap a few pics, only there was a tour bus of sorts full of people from I don’t know where who were all blocking my way.  Knowing we were sort of double-parked, which is not unlike being “sort of” pregnant, I was in a bit of a rush.  We waited patiently for about ten minutes two seconds and I horned my way in.   Behold, I give you Flat Stanley at the UT fountain, which sits at the end of the mall and in the shadow of the UT Tower:

Candid Canon - Flat Stanley vs. The Blogess Chicken (aka, Beyonce)

Note the lack of other people in the frame. I think I kinda scared them when I walked through their throng holding on to my paper friend. And with my Mother, no less.

But the whole point of this post, really, was to showcase how Flat Stanley got to meet the long-lost cousin, Beydose’, of The Blogess’ Beyonce‘.  Here, friends, is the money shot:

Candid Canon - Flat Stanley vs. The Blogess Chicken (aka, Beyonce)

This is not at all inappropriate.

You can’t tell by the drawn-on expression on his face, but let me assure you this was the highlight of his trip.  I think what we are witnessing here folks is the start of a budding romance.  Or bromance…I can’t tell if that’s a girl chicken or a boy chicken (which would technically be a rooster but who’s counting).  It was at this same metal junkyard that he met the members of a wire mariachi band, and made more friends:

Candid Canon - Flat Stanley vs. The Blogess Chicken (aka, Beyonce)

Ignore Carlos's third leg. It belongs to my Mom who was spotting Flat Stanley in the background. You know, BECAUSE HE WAS HUGE AND NOT POSE-ABLE.

I think that the next time I agree to do a Flat Stanley project, I will clarify up front what it is exactly that I am getting into.  Will I be hauling around a normal-sized Flat Stanley or the giant, economy size?  Will I need to enlist the help of friends and family to keep him from a) blowing away or b) looking like a murder victim?

Flat Stanley?  I hope you enjoyed your adventures.  Minnesotans, and {name removed to protect his identity} in particular, I hope your class learns something about Texas from all our adventures!  {name removed to protect his identity}’s Mom?  I hope you know how much I  truly enjoyed the project despite making sport of it…your pictures and scrapbook will be in an envelope and sent back to you early next week.  I want to take him on one last adventure this evening with the boys.

Wish me luck.



Are We Seriously Kidding With The Pinterest Copyright Nonsense?

I’m a little late to the game on this one, and pretty much haven’t blogged for a few months.  Or more, even?  Whatever.  I’m lazy, what can I say?  LOL!

But all this talk of Pinterest and copyright violation accusations from photographers has got me in a tizzy.  Are you people kidding me?  I’m going to go against my own here, my own being both women and photographers, and wonder aloud what the stats are on which photographers are up in arms.  My guess is that it’s greater than 75% women barking up this tree.

I’m a photographer.  I sell images at iStockPhoto and do photo shoots for people if they ask me to (and I almost always regret it because portraits are totally not my thing) and I’ve had my images taken and used in ways that I did not sanction or intend.  So it’s not like I am on the outside looking in and saying “Silly people, what’s a little theft now and then?”  I’m one of you.

There was one instance I recall where an image of mine was downloaded from my pbase site and added on to a chain email about two little boys baptizing themselves in a rural creek.  (That’s “crick” if you’re from Mississippi or Alabama.)  It was a cute little story and the image of two brothers kinda fit.  One of my boys’ preschool teachers actually recognized them when the email was forwarded to her, and she sent it to me going “Hey, looks like John and Michael!”  To which I replied that it did, because it was.  The really ironic thing was that it was a picture of a charcoal drawing that had been done based on a photograph I had taken myself and sent to a dear friend in The Netherlands.  So I’m not even sure who should be more upset:  me, that the image was stolen or Miriam, because it was an image of her original artwork.

Here’s the image:

Pinterest and Copyright

My answer of course is NEITHER OF US.  If I were that overprotective of my images I simply wouldn’t place them online to begin with.  In this day and age, dear fellow photographers, that doesn’t even help you.  Photographers do realize that people will take your prints – if you’ve not graduated to the 21st century and started offering DVDs/jump drives/downloadable links of your images – scan them, and upload and/or reprint them?  And you further realize there is nothing you can do to prevent this?  Don’t come at me with your pebble-textured, unscannable prints or watermarks.  My eleven year old could get around both of those with half his brain tied around his back.

The issue here is, as Techdirt has so eloquently and often put it, is to know what you’re really selling and how to sell it.  It’s that simple.  Pinterest is not the enemy here.  Lack of creativity and willingness to come up with a changed business model to sell photographic talent is.

Just sayin’!



P.S.  And for the record, if you’re going to swipe something from my pbase site, why not pick (snicker, snicker) this imagemaybe use it in a Kleenex ad?  Or use this shot of Grumpypants McAngryson?  How about swiping this picture of the All-American boy playing baseball?  That’s the thing…when people steal stuff, they don’t even seem to take the most useful images.  It’s so silly, the whole thing.

The Local Spelling Bee, Wherein Akeelah Did Not Attend

I have never seen Akeelah and The Bee, and I’m thinking now that it might have been a prerequisite for attending my first ever elementary school Spelling Bee.  I was woefully unprepared for the process and – dare I say it? – shenanigans that would ensue.

To begin with, I didn’t understand that the school-level Bee was a stepping stone to Bigger Bees and that there were, in fact, rounds of Bees going on all over the city on the same day.  I thought it was just all the kids in my kids’ school standing up on stage and spelling words chosen from the list that was sent home with my older son a few days before.  Last man or woman standing gets a certificate or a medal and off we go to 6th period.  Seemed harmless enough to me.  But OH NOZ!  It was evidently a much bigger deal that I had originally anticipated.

I’m going to try not to make sport of those involved in Spelling Bees (it will be hard) because I know – well, now I know – just how important it is to some.

To begin with, you don’t get to sit with your child because there are seating assignments and the kids are arranged in order by grade and last name.  That right there threw me off because the list of participants (contestants? indentured servants? kids who wanted to get out of gym that day?) that I had was in full-on alpha order.  So either everyone on the list was in the same grade, or the sweetheart of a little girl who told me how the list was organized was incorrect.  She later made it through the second round of The Bee so I can presume a certain level of intelligence.  It must’ve just been an off-day for her, organization wise.  Anyway, the adults sat on one side of the room and the kids, in alpha-only order, were on the other side.

Side note:  I went to The Bee after my 11 year old (who actually turned 11 on the day of The Bee) told me he was expecting me to be there.  This is in stark contrast to myself at the same age, who wished my own mother to be anywhere but with me.  Mars would do, in a pinch.  I was thrilled to go, never having been to such an event, and thrilled-er still that he actually wanted me there.

Once everyone was in and properly situated, the Spelling Bee Queen Bee, as I will call her in the absence of knowledge of the actual term used in Spelling Bee Parlance, proceeded to read us the riot act explain the rules.  It seemed pretty simple to me…someone says a word, the kid spells it.  If they are right, then on to the next round!  If they are wrong, they sit off to the side till the round is over and hit the road after that.  And that’s sort of what it was, with a whole lot of procedural nonsense in between.  I think, personally, that the SOX folks got a hold of the Spelling Bee Queen Bee of all the Spelling Bees and interjected a lot of Six Sigma mumbo-jumbo just to earn a large consulting fee.  But whatever, the kids didn’t seem to mind all the Do’s and Don’ts so who was I to complain?

I sat by the Mom of last year’s winner and realized very quickly that as I voiced my comments about how crazy it all seemed, she was totally on board with the crazy.  Her child, it seemed, had been asked to participate.  He hadn’t wanted to, you see, but was such an asset to the school’s Spelling Bee Arsenal that he couldn’t help but go.  She said that after last year’s performance, her child had been approached about hiring a tutor to help him advance into further rounds this year.  Incredulous, I asked what on earth a tutor would do?  “Well, you know, read the words and have the child spell them back.”  So, essentially, the same thing I had my third grader do for his older brother while I cleaned up the kitchen night before.  People pay someone to do that??  I wish I’d known…Momma needs some new jeans and Michael could have been out there earning some green…

She went on to tell me that kids were caught cheating at one of the later rounds last year.  Cheating?  On a spelling bee?  How do you do that?  The kids are up on a stage in front of God and everyone, and this being a small private Christian school I do mean that literally, so how on earth are they going to cheat?  As it turns out, the parents were helping the kids cheat by holding up signs with the words on them, scratched in haste as soon as the Spelling Bee Queen Bee called it out.  ARE.YOU.KIDDING.ME?  What does that teach a kid about following the rules and winning on your own merit?  To say nothing of the fact that hello?  THERE IS NO PRIZE MONEY AT STAKE.  So you are essentially…what?  Cheating to win bragging rights that you can spell?  Which is relevant how in the world of spell check and Google?  I don’t get it.

John made it through the first round with ease, as did most of the other 29 gym class dodgers contestants.  The second round tripped up a whole lot more of the kids.  It’s the “false sense of security” theory:  after you nail your first word, you think you’ve got it made so you let your guard down.  And when you do that, all of a sudden “rugged” becomes “ruggead” and WHAM!, you’re out.

It was quite the experience for me…we left after the round John lost on and that was fine by me.  He was totally cool with his performance.  “I just wanted to make it past the first round,” he said.  That’s my boy, aiming for the moon.

As for my experience, I am happy that he participated and that he can check that off his bucket list.  And secretly I’m happy he didn’t go any further because the idea of having to sit through that again and again as kids try to get to the top of the pile of Good Spellers in the US would have driven me crazy.  Sorry, Spelling Bee Lovers!  And good job, John.  Glad you did it, will scrapbook the page so you can tell your kids all about it.  =)

P.S. I have no idea how last year’s winner made out.  And no, I am not going to find his Mom and ask.



I’ve Got Friends With Low Expectations

I set a very low expectation of myself for blogging this holiday season and I’m happy to report that, in true overachieving form,  I exceeded it.  I have not written thing one , save for names on tags for Christmas gifts and a few short sentiments on the backs of the Christmas cards I only just sent out yesterday.  My theory was that as long as the cards were postmarked before January 1st, I could call them Christmas Cards.  After that date, they’re New Year’s wishes.

This Christmas stands in stark contrast to last when Patrick and I arrived home from a four day hospital stay on Christmas Eve.  It was his second knee replacement in three months, and proved to be far worse to recover from (though we couldn’t have known that at the time) than first one back the prior September.  This year, we were home the whole time!  I got a chance to decorate and, working from home, enjoy the decorations and really take my time this year.  Oh, there were some stress points (eBay?  I AM TALKiNG TO YOU AND YOUR IDIOT POLICiES) but we made it to the Big Day in good form.

The only one who was disappointed on Christmas morning was Michael, and I’m still not quite sure why.  I think probably it had to do with the fact that his list consisted of every known electronic gadget on the market, and all the poor lad got from the list was a Nook Color.  Try as I might to explain to him that, contrary to the Pinterest quip, Mom does not, in fact, stand for “Made Of Money”, he was still disappointed.  And because he has these enormous green-ish eyes that fill completely to the brim with tears that drop in HUGE gushers down his roly-poly cheeks when he is upset, he gets to ride in the front seat whenever we go someplace with just me and the other two kids.  It’s my way of balancing his universe so that he doesn’t end up on Jerry Springer.  For not getting an iPad, iTouch, laptop, Nintendo 3DS, iPhone 4S, and video camera all for Christmas one year.

In other news, I completed my second December Daily and am very happy with it.  I love the format and know that once the kids are grown and out of the house, I will really cherish these books and will know that the time spent on them was totally worth it.  =)

Tomorrow is the start of the New Year, of course, and I know I can’t be the only one ready for 2011 to end.  My plan for the rest of today was to write down a list of all of the horrible things that have happened this year, all of the sad things and frustrating things and things I wish I could do over, and then burn the list.  The burn ban has been lifted so that won’t even be illegal!  SCORE.  But then I realized that that would mean spending time reliving many of those moments as I wrote them down, and I decided to just leave well enough alone.  No, there’s no need to go back over all the awful stuff…I’d rather spend my last hours of this year looking forward to the next one.  So the plan has now changed to dinner and a movie and watching the ball drop in NYC and then more than likely, falling asleep on the couch at 11:02 pm, local time.