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Such Outrageous (Good) Fortune

I mentioned I’ve been absent from school twice within the last two months, for a week at a time. There are only good reasons for this, and this is what I wrote (and didn’t manage to post) when I came back from the first one – a rare and wonderful reunion of my dad’s side of the family in the U.S.

I’m feeling really grateful, for so many things.

  • Being given permission to attend a family reunion in North Carolina for a week, even though teachers are really never supposed to do vacation time outside scheduled breaks.
  • Our spacious new minivan that made the trip possible. (Toyota Sienna.)
  • My kids being, overall, very well-behaved and good sports about the 12-hour drive (plus stops and a teeny bit of getting lost).
  • My dear sisters, Auntie Em and Auntie Beth, who were part of the minivan crew and made the long driving time totally do-able. (In fact, when the kids look back on those long drives, they insist that they were fun… And they actually kind of were.)
  • The gift of hand-me-down Bakugan toys, from a thoughtful friend, that made both car rides way more cool.

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  • The advice of my friend at bearandlionmama.com, who has a lot of great tips about road trips that were helpful (especially the cookie trays!).
  • Sean being an excellent driver, such that we arrived safely and I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, despite my unexpected and uncharacteristic bout of anxiety during my own driving stint in the West Virginia mountains. (Tunnels through mountains = not great for claustrophobes.)
  • The fact that my two aunts somehow managed to buy houses that aren’t just in the same town – they’re RIGHT NEXT DOOR to each other.
  • The beautiful Smoky Mountains.

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  • Tromping around in the mountain woods.
  • Gorgeous weather, like a sweet slice of summer. (While we were still having intermittent snow back home.)
  • The best screened-in balcony-porch you’ve ever seen.

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  • Being given a bed to sleep on that’s actually more comfortable than our own bed; on our second night there, I had the best sleep I’ve had in… probably more than seven years.
  • A whole crew of family I don’t just like, or even just love – rather, family I am totally inspired by and adore to pieces. Including every one of the relatively new additions.
  • Finally cuddling my birthday buddy!! And getting a lovely baby-fix – without craving another of my own. Well, hardly at all.

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  • Getting to hug and kiss my sweet grandma every day, hear her voice, and know that at 97-and-a-half she’s still a good listener and inclined to make sassy comments on a regular basis.

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  • Fascinating, wide-ranging intergenerational conversations, especially leisurely ones over breakfast while we ogled the baby and drank amazing coffee (one of the cousins does coffee for a living, and we all reaped the benefits).
  • The interactions between the four smaller people – ages almost-one, three-and-a-half, almost-seven, and almost-eleven. They were all so good to each other and had so much fun, age gaps notwithstanding.

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  • Delicious homemade meals every night, made by different folks so no-one had to do too much.
  • Having time to play two whole games of Cities and Knights of Catan, plus lots of Anomia, Dutch Blitz, Exploding Kittens, and one grand game of Taboo. Lots of laughing-till-we-couldn’t-breathe.
  • The opportunity to visit the Cherokee village and walk around the grounds (which seemed mysteriously open even though the village itself was closed even though its website said it was open) and then visit the nearby Museum, so as to have an idea of the real history of the area.

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  • Seeing horribly grainy video footage of our clan talent show from New Year’s Eve 1995, to remember how young and big- and long-haired – and talented, of course – we all were.
  • Watching my children playing with their grown-up relatives, who seemed happy to get down on the floor to play, or participate in endless rounds of bounce-catch. (Thank you!!)
  • Both of my dog-scared kids getting to know little Tucker, who helped them loosen up.

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  • Getting to see arty Asheville, including the coffee bus and Woolworth Walk and the used bookstore and Real Buskers!

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  • The fact that my kids have aunts and great-aunts who do real art, super-fun full-on art, of a type that I never accomplish with them at home.

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  • My Hubbibi being willing to put the kids to bed basically every night, so that I could spend more time with my relatives.
  • Being reminded of what it feels like to be at loose ends… having whole days with no set plans, to just loll around and chat and listen to birds and have drinks and hammock and strum and sing and look at old photos. What a crazy feeling.

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  • Getting to celebrate the baby’s first Passover on our last evening in NC, with real matzo ball soup and extra-hot horseradish, and the short version of the sermon with genuine Hebrew singing.
  • Spending a whole week immersed in beauty and clan-love. It really doesn’t get any better.
  • That lady at McDonald’s during breakfast on our trip home who kindly got AB a separate plate when she was starting to melt down because of a syrup incident, and then also got us a lot of napkins when she spilled her milk. And smiled at us and seemed not at all perturbed by the perturbations.
  • Being so fortunate in our home that, even though we missed everyone, coming back across the border was a joy, and coming into our house was comforting. Even E, who had cried about leaving, said, “It’s nice to be home.”

Dear clan – thank you so much, for your hospitality, your generosity, your wonderfulness in general. We miss you and love you lots and lots, and are already looking forward to the next visit. Even two weeks after we got home, E still said that whenever he mentioned North Carolina, he felt sad that we left – but I know both kids had the time of their lives. And me too.

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Siri vs. Three-year-old

**This post is going to reinforce that idea some of you have mentioned, about kids living very different lives from back in the day. Yes, it’s true – technology has changed childhood a lot. But I’d like to state for the record that E (like most kids) digs in the dirt and throws rocks in the river and collects sticks with gusto as well… so all is not lost.**

Anyway.

If you haven’t had a chat with Siri, the artificially intelligent broad who lives in our iDevices (and other places too, I’m sure)… it’s probably just as well. She doesn’t seem that smart.

E just discovered her. When I indicated that he could talk to that little purple microphone icon, he had no hesitation.

He was playing Train Yard at the time, and we were having some trouble with one of the puzzles. (Mummy is not the best at this game, but she tries hard.)

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You have to get trains to their stations. Not as simple as it sounds.

If Siri doesn’t understand something, she usually just says something like,

“Let me think. I found this…” OR

“I didn’t find any appointments,” OR

“I don’t understand, but I could search the Web for it.”

E was trying to get help solving his puzzle, so he was saying things like, “How do I solve this puzzle?” and, for some reason, “I prepare to solve this puzzle!”

Siri’s response: “I don’t know who your mother is… In fact I don’t know who you are.”

Loyally, he tried to tell her, “It’s MAMA!”

Her rejoinder: “I’ve found four locations matching Granada, but they are pretty far from Toronto.”

When he said, “I promise to solve this puzzle!” it seemed kind of snarky of her to reply, “I suppose you can’t.”

So we left her to her own devices for a while. (Ha ha.)

The next time we met up with Siri, we realized she might need some more answerable questions, or at least ones with fewer syllables, so we prompted E a few times.

E: I, um…

Siri: I don’t know what that means. If you like, I can search the web for “eye”.

E: How are you?

Siri: I am well.

E: Are you hungry?

Siri: We were talking about you. Not me.

(Except she made it sound like “We were talking about you,”, as in behind your back – in fact, her tone was almost menacing.)

E: How old are you?

Siri (Not really sounding okay, more melancholy): I’m okay if you’re okay.

E: How old are you?

Siri (evading the question again): Excellent.

E: Where are you?

Siri: Here. (Huh. Cheeky.)

E: Where am I?

Siri: Here’s Lansing. (Get it? MI??)

E: How many raisins do I have?

Siri (not glad at all): I’m glad to be alive. (And not alive at all, either.)

E: I don’t understand you!

Siri: “Sigh.” (See? Melancholy. We decided to cheer her up.)

E: I love you.

Siri: All you need is love. And your iPad.

E (unprompted): I love my iPad.

Siri: Do you?

E: Yes.

Siri: I thought so.

Sadly, I think Siri might have won that round.

 

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Good thing he’s cute. And alive, and glad to be.

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