Friday, April 25, 2008

Please forgive me. . .

I hope that this doesn't offend my numerous dear readers from Oklahoma or nearby states (possibly both of you!?), but it was just TOOOO funny not to link to.

With a hat tip to Libertas, here is a glimpse at what celebrities might look like if they moved to The Sooner State.

This has been your pop-culture update.

Live from the Crown Room at DFW (and desperately hoping that my plane shows up sometime soon!)


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This weeks CoH is up. . .

over at the NerdFamily's place. My ruminations on birthday gifting are included.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It may be quiet around here. . .

Not that I've been setting world records for blogging lately, but I wanted my regulars (both of you) to know that I'll be on the road pretty constantly for the next three + weeks.

This week I'm off to Boston. The schedule isn't too rigorous, so I should be able to get in a post or two.

Next week, I'm off to New Orleans (where I'm speaking at a conference), then Dallas (internal meetings that will go dawn to dusk and beyond).

After that, the whole family is off on vacation to California!!! Hopefully I will be able to post updates of that trip along the way. After all, it's not every day that a family of five flies west (hoorah for frequent flier miles!) to spend "spring break" checking out Sequoia National Forest AND the Sonoma Valley wineries. Plus take in a family wedding (the real reason for the whole trip). There should be several good posts to be had in that mix!

Regardless, I'll be checking in on YOUR blogs from hotels and airports along the way, so keep that good news coming.

Live, from the road. . .


Birthday Parties (and that whole "gift" thing)

So, as you've noticed, we have three kids. Kids have birthdays. Kids with birthdays have parties.

Similarly, kids have friends. With birthdays. And parties.

This is where the breakdown occurs.

The law of exponential multiplication (or whatever it's called; give me a break - I was a Political Science major!) suggests that one family with three children will attend somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,234.5 birthday parties per year. This can be challenging to the ole budget, can it not?

It's bad enough to be the monthly / weekly giver of gifts. What with gas prices these days, a $15 gift now costs $26.47 plus the value of your time ("priceless", to quote Mastercard).

But woe-betide the parents who actually gave birth to the celebrant. Bouncy Castles, visiting clowns, fire trucks, fly-overs by the Blue Angels?! Is there no limit to the imaginations (and therefore expectations) given to planning a childs birthday party these days?

Before we moved to the North Georgia Mountains two years ago, we lived in a very "desirable" suburb of Birmingham AL. (and to all of my readers outside of Alabama, no, that is NOT an oxymoron!) It was your typical affluent close-in suburban neighborhood filled with wonderful boutiques, lots of restaurants, great churches and fertile couples. Close to downtown; tree-lined streets; small post-WWII bungalows (regularly being torn down and replaced by "Arts & Crafts" style mansions) (yes, that should be an oxymoron). Kids were everywhere. It was everything we ever wanted in a place to live. We spent 10 months in hell renovating and adding on to our "bungalow". We were going to live there forever.

Until we decided to move. But that's a post for another day.

AAAAANYWAY, one of the downsides of living there was the increasingly high expectations of the Pre-K and Elementary age social scene. A few crepe-paper streamers and a birthday cake did NOT a birthday party make. Did Cinderella come visit and sing for the birthday girl? Was the entire local "bounce house" not rented out to entertain 14 five-year-olds? Forget the pony ride. Where is the llama and the camel? Every year, it got worse. Before long, 10th birthdays were going to be celebrated with cruises on the Queen Mary.

That is one of the many reasons we love our new home. Aside from the mountain views and general sense of being "away from it all", we are fortunate to be part of a fairly tightly-knit group of young families. This may be more a result of desperation than anything else, since there aren't that many "young families" that live in this neck of the woods. We'd love more; please call if you're interested in moving. This tight group includes a larger-than-normal percentage of homeschoolers (probably 15-20% of the total school-age population), plus a broad mix of public- and private-schoolers. And we all get along very nicely on most days!

One of the cool "trends" of late involves birthday presents. ("Thank goodness", you scream inwardly, "he finally gets back to his original subject!!!"). While not 100%, a common clause on many birthday invitations of late includes a statement similar to this:

Ella Grace is thrilled that you're going to be coming
to her party. Since she has already been blessed with
so many toys, Ella Grace would just love it if you would
bring a donation of XXX instead for us to take
to the local XXX.
OK, the phrasing isn't usually that colloquial, but the premise stands. Kids around here, instead of getting more toys, games, and (forgive me for coming right out and saying it) junk for themselves, are getting toys (for Toys for Tots), canned goods (for the local food pantry), or cases of paper towels and toilet paper (for the Ronald McDonald House). It's awesome. You don't have to try to figure out what Ella Grace would just LOOOOOVE to have. You don't have to sacrifice your friendship with Tripp's parents (Josiah Edward Smythe-Jones III) because you bought a gift that makes LOUD music at the slightest touch and has no on/off switch. And, best of all, you don't end up with a house full of "STUFF" after your own kids party.
  • Codicil #1: parents and grandparents are exempt from the gift-giving rule. The kid still gets fun stuff for their birthday. (do you think I'm really going to tell my MIL she can't give Belle / Tink / The Boy presents?)
  • Codicil2: this rule isn't typically kicking in until about age 5 or 6. Older if you're the eldest child; younger if you're 2nd or 3rd (or good heavens 4th or 5th), since you've already seen this graciousness modeled by your esteemed elder sibling.
Belle did this for her 7th birthday. We have some wonderful pictures of her delivering a huge bucket full of canned goods to the local food pantry just before Thanksgiving. Not only did she learn the joy of giving, she also learned the whole concept that there are children in this world who are less fortunate than she. That's a deep lesson for a 7-year old, but much more easily learned when the lesson is concrete, not abstract. Oh, and she never even noticed the influx (or lack thereof) of new toys after the event was over.
If this sparks a new idea for your family, please leave a comment and let me know.
If your family is already doing this (or something even cooler), ditto.
I open the floor for discussion. . .

Monday, April 7, 2008

Warning! Blogging could be hazardous to your health. . .

Or, so says the New York Times .

Just a guess here, but I doubt that my 72 blog entries over 14 months, generating about 1500 hits, are going to cause anyone a myocardial infarction, least of all me.

Regardless, I'm going to log off and go lie down for a few minutes just to be safe.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ah, the glamorous life of the business traveler

So, after a long stretch of no travel, I'm back on the road again. Atlanta to Kansas City to Washington DC, then finally home tonight. I have to admit that I do often lead somewhat of a charmed life when I travel. Delta Crown Room, periodic upgrades to First Class, high-end hotels with a room on the concierge level, and great food. Of course, those trips are regularly balanced by those with long security lines, middle seats in row 28, no-name hotels with sirens echoing through the concrete canyons outside the windows, and Taco Bell.

I did have a chance to go out to dinner with my niece while in DC. It's hard to believe that she, the oldest of my 9 nieces and nephews, is old enough to have a career and her own apartment in the big city. We had a blast visiting. We caught up on her job and mine, her parents, my wife and kids, my parents / her grandparents, etc. It was fun, yet odd, to converse with her as an adult, rather than a kid or even a teenager.

No travel next week, but then it's two weeks of long travel. Boston, New Orleans, and Dallas. That round includes a conference over a weekend (where I'm actually speaking!). But, then it's vacation time!!!

Hopefully, you weren't here looking for immense humor or profundity. You'll not be finding it. Maybe next week!

By the way, Tinkerbelle is recovering nicely after her bout with pneumonia. We're looking forward to a nice, calm weekend.