Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Camping Out

My husband, kids and I are going camping for the first time as a family next month. Thinking about camping brought back some memories of the camping I did as a child...when I went to Indian Princess campouts with my dad and sister.

The campouts were held every fall, winter and spring. We’d get up bright and early on a Saturday morning and meet all the other members of our “tribe” at White Hen (similar to 7-11) to pick up snacks for the long ride. Then, we’d all meet up somewhere for breakfast along the way.

When we reached the campsite, we’d usually participate in activities and competitions with the other tribes. Then we’d gather in the mess hall for lunch. My dad would usually bring PB&J sandwiches for all the kids because we never knew if the lunches would be good or not. He and my mom would be up the night before making all the sandwiches.

After lunch, there would be more activities and competitions, depending on the season. We’d also have a break or rest period to hang out in our cabins and relax or wander around the campground with our friends. In the evening, we’d all meet up for dinner, which was usually more decent than lunch. Then there would be a big bonfire outside and we’d gather around in a circle and sing lots of songs. Sometimes, there would be an evening event to accompany the bonfire. Every spring, when they appointed a new nation chief, they’d have a ceremony during the bonfire. One year, it was my dad’s turn. All the men inducted him by throwing flour all over him. He was a mess! :) The tribal chiefs also had an induction. I think their daughters would paint a stripe on their cheeks and they’d get a feathered headdress.

At bedtime, we’d convince one of the dads to tell us a ghost story. Then some kids would sneak out to where all the dads were gathering in the mess hall, just to see what was going on. I think I even did it at one point. I think they just played cards and ate sandwiches. We scored some hot cocoa though!

The next morning, we’d have an awards ceremony during breakfast (usually pancakes). The tribes would receive awards for the competitions from the previous day. It usually meant patches for everyone’s vests or beads for everyone’s necklaces. Then we’d all say our goodbyes and head back home.

I have a lot of good memories of those campouts. Even when I was too old for Indian Princesses, I’d still tag along just for the campouts and help out with the younger kids.

The last time I went camping, however, was with my overnight camp. The high school groups got to go to Door County for a couple of days. We pitched tents, cooked over a campfire, and did some fun activities on the side. One of the nights, it was pouring out and everything in our tents was soaked. It was definitely an interesting lesson in coping and survival skills. Some people were whining about it and others just went with the flow (myself included). I was just jealous that some other girls got to sleep in a tent with the hot counselor I was crushing on. I wouldn’t have complained about my tent being flooded if I were in their shoes. ;)

I am looking forward to this upcoming camping experience. I feel ill-prepared at the moment, but I think it will be a fun time overall. Fall is the perfect camping season, in my opinion. The trees look so beautiful and it’s not too hot or too cold.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Art of Forensics

I used to wear a sweatshirt that said "Forensics is Not Just Cutting Up Dead Bodies." I got a lot of questions about that shirt! However, I was always proud to announce that I was part of the speech team at my high school.

In the beginning of Freshman year, my English teacher made everyone do a creative writing piece based on "Tom Sawyer" (our assigned summer reading). I had a little too much fun with it. The next thing I knew, I had received a letter formally inviting me to join the Forensics team. My teacher had apparently liked my story enough to give it to the head coach of the team. I went to an event where people would show off their material from each individual event and then we could meet the person whose event we were most interested in. We got to learn more about the events that way. My choice that year was "Original Comedy." The piece I ended up writing and acting was amateur and didn't get me very far. However, my English teacher/coach loved it and I got a simple joy out of making him laugh. He helped me fine tune it a bit, but it still never held a candle to the material of my competitors. I didn't get to go to Regionals because of my cousin's Bar Mitzvah. I was not too happy about that. (No offense to my cousin, but I just really loved being a part of the team.)

During sophomore year, I took a class on individual events and got to try out different types of events throughout the semester. Everyone had to audition for speech team that year by reading song lyrics as verse (which is why I hate "Hotel California" so much). I ended up getting placed in Verse and had fun working on the different poems I chose to present. My favorite was "Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer" by T.S. Eliot (yes, I know it was turned into a song for "Cats," my least favorite musical). I ended up taking 3rd place at a tournament and I also got to go to Regionals that year. (Talk about a long day!) For the talent show that spring, I read "Mungojerrie..." again and my friend dressed up like a cat and did an interpretive dance while holding a real cat. It was a fun and memorable experience, to say the least.

Junior year was low key. I did Verse again but didn't win any awards. I still went to Regionals though. Senior year was the best overall. I only won at two tournaments and not really high places. I still had a blast though. My sister was on the team and I also became best friends with "Will" because of it. The only annoying part was that I was captain, but one of the girls from the team went behind my back with one of the coaches to try to take over everything. Not that I normally hold grudges, but I still resent both of them for doing so.

One of my favorite parts of going to speech tournaments was flirting. (And you thought I was going to say the nachos at Warren High School, but I hate nachos!) I was the team flirt all four years of high school. I may not have won at many tournaments, but if I got the attention of some guys and maybe scored a few phone numbers, I was on cloud nine! No one from other schools knew my "status" and I got to dress nice and wear make-up. Original Comedy was the best event for flirting (guys tended to participate more often than girls) but I still found ways to meet guys even when I did Verse. I think my coach finally picked up on all my flirting by senior year and teased me about it later. It was so much fun though!

I also enjoyed baking for the tournaments. I'd bring cookies, brownies, etc. I liked baking these big Funfetti cookies (in a pizza pan), which my coach would get addicted to sometimes. I got a little lazy during senior year and started bringing fortune cookies from work.

Going to speech tournaments meant I had to get up before the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning to ride a bus to whichever high school was hosting. I loved when our school hosted. We'd spend the Friday before (usually a day off school for some reason) preparing the classrooms and materials. Everyone worked together and we'd get pizza for lunch. I also got to use my flirting prowess even more because I knew my way around our tricky looking school and some of the guys would get lost easily. I even snuck some guys in to where the athletic department soda machines were hidden, as they were less expensive. The best thing was getting to sleep in on the Saturdays we hosted. I'd sometimes bring friends or my parents would show up. When we hosted during my freshman year, some friends and I walked all the way to McDonald's and back during the lunch break. (Back in the days when I was actually eating at McDonald's.) There were tournaments at other schools where we would go out to lunch as a team. I liked those better than the ones where we were stuck eating gross school hot lunches on a Saturday.

After I graduated, I occasionally got to help judge at a tournament. It usually happened if I was home on winter break and there was a tournament going on. I got paid $90 each time I judged, which was nice. After I graduated college, I got to judge more often. I only did this for a couple of years and then fell out of the loop when someone else took over the team. I enjoyed getting to judge and thought it was a great way to earn some extra money on weekends. I was also pretty nice to the people I judged, as I remembered how a harsh criticism could easily break my spirit or put me into a horrible mood. I think I review books in the same manner these days. :)

Overall, I have some great memories and even funny inside jokes from my speech team days. I don't know what prompted me to think of them recently, but I think that dressing up on Saturday usually triggers a memory or two. I dress up for different reasons now and I'll never be able to judge at tournaments again, unless they move them to Sundays. I hope that will be the case when my kids go to high school, if they take an interest in participating.

Final fun Forensics fact: Ian Brennan, co-writer of "Glee", competed in speech tournaments. I even saw him compete because one of my friends was performing against him and I'd go to support her.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Slacking off

I do not have a Friendship Friday post for today. I haven't had a Fiction Friday post for several weeks now. I also haven't worked on the scarf I'm making my older son or any of the latest FlyLady objectives. I don't even know if I'm ready to work on a blog project again. My focuses have been work, my family, Chick Lit Central, reading and the holidays. I have lots of clothes to put away but that doesn't get done. I lack the desire to wash the dishes or do any ironing. After I get home from work and we've all eaten and the kids are in bed, I'm happy just watching TV and sleeping. I even skipped my workout two days in a row this week to stay in bed longer. For those of you who don't already know, I'm 17 weeks pregnant. At least I think that's how far along I am now. I keep losing track. The first trimester was an energy drain because I was so sick all the time. Now I'm just tired. I have been pretty low key about this pregnancy, but the news managed to spread like rapid fire around the office. I'm sure I'll eventually say something on Facebook, but I'm not ready to just yet.
Thanks for hanging in there and continuing to read this blog. I'm hoping I'll pick up some momentum after the holidays and want to write more again.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I love the 90s....Soundtracks!

Soundtracks to movies, musicals and TV shows comprised a lot of my 90’s music collection. I listened to them often (and still do) for the variety of songs and the way they were arranged to capture the feel of the show. I wanted to share some of my favorite 90's soundtracks with you today.

“Clueless”: After seeing this movie in the summer of 1995, I immediately had to get the soundtrack! There was one song I loved in particular, “Supermodel” by Jill Sobule. They play it when Tai is getting her makeover. However, the other songs are a lot of fun too. There’s a modernized version of “Kids in America” that kicks off the soundtrack. I also like “Shake Some Action,” “Change,” and “The Ghost in You.” There are a few songs with heavier beats and more of a rap feel, but they don’t take away from the enjoyment of the soundtrack overall.

“Wayne’s World”: The first time I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen was in this movie. (This kind of makes me sound younger than I am!) I loved the song so much that it fueled me into buying the soundtrack. I wasn’t disappointed with my purchase though. “Bohemian Rhapsody” got me more interested in Queen and I started listening to more of their music, as a result. In the meantime, I also fell in love with “Dream Weaver” and “Ballroom Blitz.” (I believe it was a cover that was done by Tia Carrere in the movie.) This soundtrack even made me appreciate heavy metal and some big hair bands.

“Reality Bites”: I may have mentioned this soundtrack when I first talked about “Stay” by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories. I originally got the soundtrack for that song, but then enjoyed the other songs too and couldn’t stop playing it. There’s “Spin the Bottle” by Juliana Hatfield, “Locked Out” by Crowded House, “Bed of Roses” by The Indians and an 80’s classic, “Tempted” by Squeeze. There are also the classics from the movie: “My Sharona” and “Baby, I Love Your Way.” I even enjoyed “All I Want is You” by U2. I don’t like U2, but I’ll make an exception for this song. I recently got the soundtrack on CD so I could listen to it in my car. It’s fun for driving around and road trips. It makes me think of my college years a lot too.

“10 Things I Hate About You”: I originally got this soundtrack because I love Letters to Cleo’s version of “I Want You to Want Me.” Then the rest of it was great too and it captured the mood of the movie. “Even Angels Fall” by Jessica Riddle is always enjoyable to listen to. Letters to Cleo even does a cover of “Cruel to Be Kind” and I like their version of that song too. Other standouts are “Your Winter” by Sister Hazel, “The Weakness in Me” by Joan Armatrading and “War” by The Cardigans. The songs fit perfectly into the movie, which makes for a great soundtrack overall.

“Empire Records”: This used to be my workout music when I was in college. There are a lot of fast and upbeat songs that I enjoy listening to. I originally got the soundtrack before I even saw the movie. It just looked enticing and I figure that a movie about a record store would have a lot of good music. Unfortunately, they left off “Say No More, Mon Amor” by Rex Manning. Just kidding…that was only slightly cheesy! “Till I Hear it From You” by Gin Blossoms and “A Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins were pretty popular around the time the soundtrack came out. However, all the songs are worth listening to. I may have to dig out my cassette and listen to this one again soon. (Or find it on CD for my car!)

“Pulp Fiction”: Not only was I surprised by how much I liked this movie, but I fell in love with the soundtrack around the same time. I think I originally got it because of “Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield. However, all the songs on this soundtrack have their own unique feel and each contribute to the movie in different, but memorable ways. I remember singing “You Never Can Tell” with a friend at a Rocky Horror convention (the same friend with whom I sang Jewel songs). I also used to joke about “Flowers on the Wall” with a friend in college because we never could understand the words and would replace them all with “watermelon” till we got to the main chorus. I still love “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green, “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill and “If Love is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags)” by Maria McKee. I think I’ll always associate “Misirlou” with this movie. My CD is mixed up somewhere in my collection, but something tells me I should listen to it again!

Disney music: My cousin worked for Disney records when I was growing up, so we usually got all our soundtracks from him. There were some great Disney movies out in the 90’s and some had equally great soundtracks. This includes “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King.” “The Lion King” was the first soundtrack to be written and compiled by a famous rock musician. I even like how Elton John put his own versions of some of the songs at the end. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is so beautiful and romantic and I love how he made it even more so with his radio edition. BATB was done by Ashman and Menken, who also did “The Little Mermaid” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Sadly, Howard Ashman passed away. Tim Rice took over as lyricist for Aladdin. After “The Lion King,” Disney soundtracks seemed to go downhill. They didn’t have the same feel as before. I liked “Hercules,” and maybe one or two songs from other soundtracks. I was disappointed that “Tarzan” didn’t have any songs sung by the actual characters. It was like a music video to Phil Collins songs. Disney’s most stand-out soundtrack (which also, according to my cousin, was a best seller) is “Newsies.” It’s about a bunch of paperboys in the early 1900’s, but the music is so much fun to listen to. Their first number, “Carrying the Banner,” has a Broadway feel. I love “Seize the Day,” for both the lyrics and the rhythmic music. Ann Margret even sings a few songs. For a while, I would listen to it all the time. Then I put it aside until 2002, when my (now) husband decided that we should learn about “Newsies” to impress our (soon-to-be) sister-in-law. It was her favorite movie. We now listen to the soundtrack on road trips. It has become a staple in our music collection.

Last, but definitely not least...

"Rent": I got the Original Broadway Cast recording of “Rent” for Hanukkah in 1996. I only knew a couple of songs at the time, but heard good things about it and was excited to receive it as a gift. After I got back from my trip to NY that winter, I started listening to it and getting to know the songs and characters. By spring break of junior year of college (in 1997), I had practically memorized this CD (both discs) and was addicted to it. My sister and I would act out all the songs together. I finally got to see “Rent” in December of 1997, a year after I had received the soundtrack. I felt like I knew the characters and it was like visiting with old friends. It was so hard not to sing along. I still love this soundtrack and still know all the words to the songs. “Rent” has played such a big role in my life for such a long period of time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mama mia!

Since my older son is now five years old, I found it interesting to look back on the details of his birth. Thankfully, they weren't as gory as some other birth stories!

October 11th, 2005
01:23 pm - E's birth story

Warning: If you don't like TMI, don't read any further...

Here are the details:
On Monday, September 12, I went to my OB appointment. I was 4 days overdue at that time. She did a movement monitor and then an ultrasound to check fluid levels. She was talking about inducing later in the week or sometime next week. I really didn't want to wait that long if I didn't have to. Anyway, the fluid levels in the placenta were low, so she sent me to L&D that afternoon. My husband and I had time to eat a quick and light lunch before going to the hospital. When we got there, they started me on pitocin. They monitored contractions and the heartbeat the whole time. Then they broke my water and put something in to monitor contractions more accurately. By the evening, the contractions were starting to get bad. By 11:00, they were so painful that I requested an epidural. I was only 4 cm dilated at that point, so it was fine to do so. I got the epidural and woke up around 1:30 feeling the need to push. I was at 10 cm at that point. The actual delivery only took 45 minutes. It felt like a lot longer. Even with the epidural, it was painful and exhausting. However, it was so neat to see the baby once he came out. He was pretty quiet and they took care of the apgar tests and washing him before giving him to me. It was so amazing to hold him for the first time (and every time thereafter). :)
He had jaundice for the first few days, so I was supplementing him with formula, while also nursing. They did phototherapy before sending him home. Then we had to use a wallaby at home. Thankfully, that all did the trick and he was at an acceptable level by the next day.

I was watching "A Baby Story" on TLC, which inspired me to share this story. I think my labor was a lot easier than some I've seen on this show, but I would also never want it on video.

Follow up: Since that day, my older son has been an incredible source of joy in my life. I feel so blessed to have him as my son and to see him grow and change every day. Just this morning, my younger son fell and hurt his knee. My older son was trying to comfort him and held his hand in the car until I had to drop him off. I was so proud of his kindness and compassion toward his brother. That's just one little thing that portrays the essence of what a kind and good-natured boy he is (most of the time). We have a lot of fun together and I enjoy hearing his exuberant laugh when he's really happy or finds something to be funny. I can't wait to continue on this journey of raising him and watching him grow up (even though I told him to stay little forever when I first met him).

Side note: If you ever have to bring a wallaby (or bili blanket) home from the hospital on the first night, be prepared for a sleepless night. I'm glad it did its job, but it's the worst thing ever to have when you're trying to get a baby to sleep in your home for the first night! I still cringe just thinking about it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Taking a week off....

Time Warp Tuesday, my new 90's series and Friendship Friday will not be seen this week, so that I may bring to you...wishes for a sweet and happy new year. (That is, if you're Jewish like me.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

We'll always have Jennifer Weiner novels

For this week's Friendship Friday post, I want to talk about two friends who will be celebrating their birthdays tomorrow.

Turns out these friends have more than a birthday in common. They're both Jewish, both teachers and both like the same kinds of books that I do...especially Jennifer Weiner novels. I think they also have both borrowed from the "Melissa library." :)

I met J.B. at Makor (Shabbat dinner program in the city) during the summer of 2002. She was friends with my BFF and we all sat together for a meal. We started talking and realized we had a lot in common. After that, we'd get together outside of Makor. She lived in the city, but I was still going out that way often. She'd also come up to the suburbs. Since I was usually the first (amongst my friends) to get the new Jennifer Weiner novels each year, I'd loan them to her when I was done. (I think they have a permanent place on her bookshelf now. :) ) The following year, I asked her to stand up in my wedding. Around that same time, she met her (now) husband at another Makor dinner. They're a perfect match and I'm really happy for her. We'd go out on double dates after they became serious. My husband and I attended their wedding when I was six months pregnant with my first child. After we moved, we didn't get to stay in touch or see each other as often. We'd invite J.B. and her husband to get together whenever we were in town. Seeing as we only met up in person once a year, I saw her as pregnant in 2009 and then finally met her baby this past summer! She doesn't have as much of an online presence, but I get the latest updates from her husband on Facebook. We try to e-mail every so often. I am glad to see and hear about good things happening in her life and I hope we can continue to stay friends, even if we only talk sporadically.

I met S.O. in May, 2009 when I came to our (now) neighborhood for a Shabbat weekend. She and her husband were friends with our hosts and came over for dinner that Friday night. When I found out that we liked the same authors, we were talking non-stop and even forgot that anyone else was sitting around the table after a while. I saw her again in shul the next day and we chatted for a few minutes. Later, I got her contact information from another mutual friend in the area. When we came down to check out our (now) house for the first time, we stopped by her house before we left and I loaned her some books (from the "Melissa library," of course). She then told me about "Sammy's Hill" (and "Sammy's House"), which I then got all my friends interested in reading, as well. After we moved to the neighborhood, we started getting together more often. She and her husband came over on New Year's Eve to play board games and we were up all night laughing. We had another game night in the future that led to the same result. We try to get together with them whenever possible. This past summer, she and I went to see Jennifer Weiner at a Borders in VA. We spent the whole car ride there and back chatting non-stop. It was a lot of fun! We're very thankful to have both S.O. and her husband as both friends and neighbors.

To both J.B. and S.O....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I love the 90s--I'm Just a Girl....

Before reading on, check out last week's installment of this new blog series, if you haven't already: I Love the 90's

This week I am talking about albums and songs by my favorite female singers of the 90's.

Alanis Morissette, “Jagged Little Pill”: This is, by far, Alanis’ most popular and well-loved album. I still play it and the music doesn’t feel outdated at all. (I recently got it on CD so I could play it in my car!) The first time I heard it was thanks to a friend from my “Rocky Horror” days. We used to hang out a lot and just drive around. She played this cassette one day and I was hooked. Then my roommate in college had it and I listened to it in my dorm room. I eventually got my own cassette so I could hear it whenever I wanted. She had a lot of well known, standout hits. However, my favorite song on that album is “Not the Doctor.” I love the contrast between the verses and the chorus and the way it has a 90’s rocker chick feel. Overall, this is one of the best and most memorable 90’s albums.

Natalie Merchant, “Tigerlily”: This is another album that I recently had to buy on CD to play in my car. It’s more mellow in nature, but has some beautiful lyrics. Nothing else Natalie Merchant has done since that time has come close to this caliber of quality. I used to listen to it on my walkman all the time in college (after getting the cassette for Hanukkah sophomore year) and even went to see her in concert that spring. Afterward, I started listening to 10,000 Maniacs because she started with them. (They also have a lot of good songs.) My favorite song used to be “Wonder,” but now I like "Carnival" better and tend to sing along with it (or just end up singing it around the house). It has a nice beat to it and I also like the contrast between the verses and the chorus.

Jewel, “Pieces of You”: I first got into Jewel’s music toward the end of sophomore year of college. I then bought this cassette at the beginning of the summer and played it in my car all the time. It kept me sane during my first break-up and my terrible waitressing job. I continued to be a Jewel fan when I got back to college and people would send me tapes of her “rarities.” When I went to a “Rocky Horror” convention that fall, I hung out with a girl who was also a Jewel fan. We were singing her songs together all evening. (And probably driving the guys we hung out with crazy, as a result.) I went to her concert with some friends the following spring. It was a bit of a hassle getting there, but worth it to see her perform live. When I was in a theater troupe (about social action) during senior year of college, I sang “Pieces of You” with a few other performers. I performed the “Jew” part since I was one of the few Jewish people at my school (and probably the only one in the troupe). I also sang “Jessica” (one of her rarities) during Theater Ted during junior year. Overall, my favorite song is still “Who Will Save Your Soul?” It just makes me think of the days before Jewel knew she’d be a big hit. It also has a great beat and is easy to sing along. Nowadays, Jewel is a country singer. I recognized one of her rarities on her country album (it was also used as the title of the album, "Perfectly Clear"). She still has a good sound, but nothing compares to her first album.

No Doubt, “Tragic Kingdom”: I started liking this CD around mid-junior year of college. My sister had it and I borrowed it from her and then couldn’t stop listening to it. The songs were catchy and a lot of fun. At first, they all sounded similar but then each took on a life of its own. I really like Gwen Stefani’s voice (and still do). My favorite song on this CD is “Spiderwebs.”. I heard this song in the car today and that brought back memories of when I used to listen to this CD a lot more often. Their other CDs are good, but nothing compares to “Tragic Kingdom.”

Juliana Hatfield, “Only Everything”: I had heard some songs by Juliana Hatfield on the “Reality Bites” and “My So-Called Life” soundtracks. I really liked her voice and the type of music she sang. Then “Universal Heart-Beat” started playing on the radio and I really liked that too. I decided to purchase her album on cassette one summer day between my freshman and sophomore years of college. Afterward, I played it over and over again in my car. It had a great sound and each song had a unique feel. I think I still like “Universal Heart-Beat” the best though, as it reminds me of that time period in my life. I was in a pretty good place being in my first serious relationship and getting to see my boyfriend all the time that summer. This album reminds me of those carefree days of summer. I was supposed to see her in concert back in 2000 when she was opening for Aimee Mann. However, she got sick that day and someone else performed instead. She was really good but kept apologizing for not being Juliana. I bought her CD anyway.

There are some 90’s songs by females that I also wanted to mention. I am listing them because they either bring back good memories or they just have a great sound and I always associate them with this decade, no matter when I hear them. (I’m not listing any from last week though.) Check them out if you want some fun nostalgia.

“My Favorite Mistake” by Sheryl Crow
“You Gotta Be” by Des’ree
“As I Lay Me Down” by Sophie B. Hawkins
“Do You Sleep?” by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories (I know I mentioned this along with my commentary about “Stay” last week, but this song is too good not to stand on its own!)
“Crush” by Jennifer Paige
"I Know" by Dionne Farris

Coming next week...Favorite Soundtracks!