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Monday, January 03, 2005

So. New Year and all that. Somehow it doesn't feel very New Year-ish.

Last Wednesday we found out that one of my cousins - sort-of cousin, his mother is my mother's cousin - is missing after the tsunami. He and his girlfriend were on holiday on one of the Thai islands, and haven't yet been heard from. It does not seem hopeful at this stage ... It's funny, when you read about natural disasters, you kind of assume that the people who die must be the slow ones, or old, or frail, or not very fit ... It seems like if you're young and strong and healthy you should be able to get out of it okay. But it's not so. You can be young and strong and healthy and still die on a beautiful sunny morning. It seems so strange, and so wrong, that life can change in an instant. That all of a sudden, things are divided into Before and After. Before the wave. The car crash. The phone call. The diagnosis. And then - After.

So that was Wednesday. And Thursday was my dearest Emily's 12th birthday. Life is such a strange mixture of joy and tragedy.

Emily loves Monroe (now re-named Moo). Moo is one lucky kitty; he currently has seven people who are utterly besotted by him, and who pander to his every whim. We all adore him, and Emily says that she thinks she feels like a new mother. This is true in more ways than one, as Moo has been waking her up before dawn to play Bat The Shoelace. (He spurns his catnip mice and fancy kitty feather duster in favour of Steve's old shoelace.)

So Em's birthday morning, we mainly hung out with Moo. Then we left him with his Great Grandpa while the rest of us went to see the Lemony Snicket movie - which I think actually works better as a film than the books did. I loved the way they staged it - great scenery - and thought the kids were very well cast. Out for dinner in the evening (our favourite Indian restaurant) and home again to Moo and birthday cake. And how could I not cherish a daughter who can look at a birthday cake which was supposed to be a butterfly, but which actually looks like a bat that's been ridden over by a car, and say "It's beautiful, mom! Thank you!"? She's generous, graceful, tactful and loving. I love her so much.

Here are Moo and Emily, both looking pensive.

The kids had a friend over all day on New Year's Eve. That plus climbing tired me out, and I had the most pathetic New Year's Eve I've had in years : to everyone's disgust, I fell asleep on the couch at about 9. Pitiful I know. The others stayed awake and (I'm told) were reasonably festive. Rather sad overall, really ... Next year we really need to do something a bit more exciting.

On January 1, Steve turned 15. He overtook me quite some time ago, and is now only a head or so shorter than Bobby. Pretty cool, to have a son well on his way to adulthood. He is such an interesting person these days. Clever, thoughtful, and, like his sister, kind.

His birthday present of choice was a new bed (which we picked out together on New Year's Eve), bedding to go with it, and a couple of pictures for his wall. I'm hoping that this will inspire him to take better care of his room; for the last while it's been pretty offputting, all dirty socks and crumpled grubby papers and skateboards and books and glasses of orange juice tangled together in a sordid mess.

To celebrate his birthday, we hired a pontoon boat for the day and went out along the St John's river.

Here is Steve, piloting the boat. He enjoyed being in control and deciding where we should go (and how fast we should get there).

It's really beautiful on the river; you can turn down little secluded riverways that are totally tranquil (we had our picnic lunch on one of these), and the wildlife is amazing. During the course of the day, we saw too many alligators to count, as well as turtles and a huge variety of birds ... It was a lovely day. And the river was pretty empty, which added to our enjoyment. I guess the people who had decent New Year's parties were still recovering.

Looking back on 2004, it's been a rather grim year. Sophie's broken heel. Emily's growth hormone deficiency diagnosis, and all the worry and expense that's entailed. The white blood count scare. The MRI scare. All our insurance woes. My mom's breast cancer diagnosis. Three hurricanes. Kirsty's death. The tsunamis.

Of course there have been many good things woven into and through the bad trip to England, buying our house, Em's making it to Nationals, going camping and climbing, Christmas with Bobby's folks ...

I am hoping that 2005 is less tempestuous. I need calm and tranquility and predictability for a while.

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