Thursday, September 30, 2010

pressing on

My mom's friend Tara had what seemed like a picture-perfect life. She had a handsome husband and three beautiful, well-behaved, energetic sons. They had more than enough money, a beautiful home, and nice things, were involved and respected in the community, and were surrounded by loving friends and supportive family. I can only imagine the devastation for her and her entire family when her middle son Brennan was diagnosed with cancer a little over a year ago. Suddenly the life that had been such a perfect example of the American dream had become every parent's worse nightmare. Brennan's battle has been a difficult one, as I'm sure it is for all of the children and their parents and siblings and grandparents and friends who face down this horrifying disease every day. But the grace, courage, and determination with which they have approached every challenge and set-back and seemingly insurmountable odd has been nothing short of inspirational. And while the material things they had before their fight with cancer might now seem useless and inconsequential, the support they have garnered from the community has been staggering and the love, hope, and encouragement from their family and friends has been beautiful to witness.

This month is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Today the Simkins family has chosen to honor Brennan and his friend Patrick (also battling cancer) with a day of fund-raising efforts geared towards finding a cure for this disease that kills more children yearly than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and pediatric AIDS combined. Please join us to raise awareness by logging on to
and donating directly. You can also mail a check to CURE or log on to CURE's website
and click DONATE, indicating in the comments that your donation is for Press On 9-30. Their goal is to raise $100,000 in Patrick and Brennan’s honor to help fund research that will lead to better treatments and cures for pediatric cancers.


Friday, September 10, 2010

double digits

Dear Laine,

Lainey-bug, Punkin, Babycakes (or just 'Cakes, as your Daddy calls you), Doodlebug... you are ten months old today. You have now been out in the world as your own little unique, independent being longer than you were inside of me as my little tumor-baby. It's amazing the changes that have taken place in both of us over these ten months. You are a daily source of wonder, joy, frustration, amazement, anxiety, and pride for me and your father. Already, before you can even walk or talk, I am so proud of the little human that you are and who you are becoming before my eyes.

You are absolutely a handful. Now that you are mobile there is nothing that you don't want to see, pull up on, attempt to eat, or explore. There is no power cord or coupon insert or leaf or dead bug that you won't put in your mouth (PS- when does that stage end? I'm kinda over digging things out of your mouth, especially now that you have sharp little teeth you can clamp down with). You are smart and spirited, always studying everything and everyone, and a wonderful little mimic, which your daddy and our friends and I will have to start being careful of very soon. You are a fantastic sleeper (thank you, sweet baby... we love you so for that little gift), and you have so far eaten every single thing we have given you with great relish. Except pancakes, but we can eventually forgive you for that. You are also quite the musician; you love your toy "one man band set" with the flute and drum and maracas.

One of my favorite things to do is take you out to run errands during the day. Now that you're a big girl and can sit up in the front of the cart by yourself you love to flirt with everyone who walks by. You're completely indiscriminate: old people get the same treatment as other babies and kids, men get grinned at as much as women. And it work so well- you have never been somewhere and not made friends or gained admirers. You're absolutely charming and delightful, and I love all of the warm smiles and laughter you solicit from complete strangers everywhere we go.

Your favorite thing to do lately is to be chased. You explode into fits of adorable giggles if your daddy and I try to keep you from crawling somewhere. Often you will leave the room and then turn and look behind you to see if we're following. Sometimes it's cute, but sometimes I really do want you to stay out of the toilet bowl and then it's a little more frustrating. But I'm always a sucker for that little belly laugh of yours. And I am getting to hear it more and more often- you've got quite a sense of humor!

You are far and away the most joyful little human I have ever known. While I have been tempted to throw you out a window during your whiny, clingy, teethy phases (I feel like I can say that because my parents said it to me and I turned out ok) and your poop just gets more and more smelly, there is nothing in this world I love more than being your mother. You are a light in my life and I love you so so so much. I could not have imagined or asked for a more perfect first daughter.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

those who burn books...

This video is sad and terrible and ridiculous... and needs to be shared. (And bless the newscaster's heart... she gets PISSED.)

But all is not lost. Thanks for something refreshing and true following on the heels of something so nonsensical, CAIR.

"As the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote almost two centuries ago, "Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people." The theater piece for which he wrote those words, called "Almansor," was addressing the Inquisition's burning of the Quran. In 1933, university students in Heine's own beloved homeland burned his books, along with many others. They burned people soon after."

PS- How about we all go to a karaoke party to commemorate 9/11 instead? Yes? Great.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

they say it's my birthday

(Well hey there, blog. Long time no see.)

Birthdays and holidays have always been a pretty big deal in my family. We celebrate birthday seasons- calling to get wish lists and planning dinners and parties weeks in advance. Christmas traditions are treasured, taken out and dusted off every year with each ornament, stocking, ice-skating bear figurine, and advent calendar. But while Christmas has always topped my list of favorite holidays, there was nothing that I looked forward to as a child quite as much as my own birthday. There is something to be said for a day that is a celebration of being born that I think resonates with my ego quite nicely. But I also must attribute my love for birthdays to two other things- my mother and the Penny Whistle Party Planner.

The PWPP is a book that my mom took out every year the month or so before mine or one of sister's birthdays (although I don't think that either of them would argue that I was (am?) far and away the most enthusiastic about it). Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a different party theme. The authors give ideas for everything from invitations to games to food that incorporates your theme of choice. And we got INTO IT. Some of my favorite parties include:

1. My first ever theme party was a Swan Lake party when I was quite little (3 or 4 I think... Mom could confirm). One of my first dance teachers, who was a professional dancer at the time, came over and taught all of us little ones a "Swan Lake variation", in which I was of course featured as the lead swan (I won't go so far as to call myself Odette, but I was kind of prodigy, y'all). Everyone got little clear plastic swans filled with candies and my mom made all of the girls their own little tutus and we performed for everyone's parents at the end. As mother to a little girl now I can only imagine how ridiculously stinkin' cute that must have been. Oh, and I had a Barbir cake with a real Barbie in it. The cake was her skirt. Not theme appropriate, but awesome.

2. Pig Party. I went through quite a pig phase in middle school. I had a ton of the suckers... stuffed one, figurines, calendars, you name it. (I still have some of them... they are now in residence in Laine's room.) So of course my birthday party had to be pig themed. We had no-handed jello eating contests, pig calling contests, and some relay race type game involving a pink balloon and crawling...

3. Artist Party. My friend Christin still gets props from my family for her own personal dedication to this theme- she came wearing a scarf and beret with a little swirly mustache painted on her face. We had an older kid from my fine arts school draw portraits of all of us (we still have mine somewhere, and I know some of my friends have theirs as well), and of course there was all sorts of craftiness.

4. Kidnapped Party. We did this for my 13th birthday (Yes, the theme parties lasted that long. I'm not ashamed.) and it is probably my all-time favorite party idea. It's basically a reverse surprise party- the only person that knows about it is the guest of honor. My mom contacted all of the guests parents and told them to have a toothbrush and small travel bag ready the morning of the party. We (my sisters and I) woke up really early and piled into the Suburban and went one by one to "kidnap" each girl from their bed. Then we returned home with six or so bed-headed, pajama clad 13 year old girls and had a breakfast feast.

This year I'm turning 26. Not really an exciting number: no milestones, no special privileges and no expectations of any kind of crisis. But that's never mattered in my family. Birthdays may seem trivial to other people, but my mother taught me early that every year is special one and deserves to be celebrated. And as much as I loved all of those parties and owe so much thanks to my mom for all of the time and effort she put in to make them special every year, I thank her even more for teaching me that, and for making me feel that the day of my birth was, and is, cause for so much celebration.