Heirs of the Magi News Flash!

***Heirs of the Magi News Flash!***

The annual Samshwords Summer-Winter sale has ended! Thank-you to everyone for your support and interest in my books - and for any other Smashwords authors that you may have checked out during July too!

***Year Three of Harry Potter - After the Epilogue has now been posted at FanFiction.net in time for Harry's 37th Birthday! If you love my Harry Potter fan fiction stories as much as I do; check out this newest installment in the 'After the Epilogue' storyline!

Happy summer - or winter - reading!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cassie's Journal - November 29, 2013



Happy 13th Birthday, Rowen!

This has been a best-ever, best friend birthday; and Rowen is all smiles as I’m writing this and we’re snuggled under the covers of the bed in our hotel room.

I’ve had so many favorite moments today, but let’s start with Rowen’s first birthday surprise at the Inn during the breakfast buffet.  The football news that everyone else in town cares about most today can wait.

Rowen was sure that going out for breakfast was entirely because her parents couldn’t do anything else with her while working the big sale day at the computer store, so watching her open that first card from her parents with the gift of a ticket to the championship game and spending money was priceless.  That surprise quickly moved to number two on the best gift list for the day with Tim’s gifts.  She loves the necklace a lot, but it was the ‘One Boyfriend – Your Choice’ coupon in his card that won the best-gift-ever-so-far prize.

I thought that was fairly romantic coming from a thirteen-year old boy, and while that could mean that Michael helped Tim out with that part of their surprise; the ‘fine print’ was likely all Tim.  “This offer is exclusively for Rowen Emerson, and is redeemable only on her thirteenth birthday.  Terms and conditions are negotiable.  Some conditions apply.  Attending Championship football game is mandatory.”

Just for the sake of wondering, Rowen; what do you think Tim would’ve done if you’d tried to redeem that coupon but told him you wanted him to get you some other guy – like Jake Stone?  Yeah, probably not a good plan – especially when you’ve waited this long for Tim to come to his senses.  I do want to be there when you show that coupon to your mother tomorrow, though; and drop the boyfriend news on both of your parents – if that news doesn’t reach them before we get back.

Rowen liked the rest of the gifts she opened while we had breakfast, but nothing could top the boyfriend gift – even though she didn’t technically redeem that coupon until we were on our way to the football game.  I think that they were both waiting until we were out of town before trying out things like holding hands in public.  They’d moved along to cuddling in hotel room beds by the end of the evening – just a little while ago – so I’d say they’ve made decent progress in that department since this morning; but I’m getting way ahead of the story.

The breakfast buffet was a bit of a rush for us – and then some for Michael.  He’d come to the Inn with his parents to help out for a while before joining us for Rowen’s birthday breakfast when the first waves of food were delivered to the buffet tables.  While other members of our collective families had to hurry through their meals for other reasons, we needed to eat; have Rowen open her gifts; and be on the road by shortly after eight o’clock.

Since word wasn’t out yet, I’m sure that anyone who saw Rowen and Tim leave with his Aunt, Uncle, and Carolyn assumed they were going for the ride together so that Michael and I could be together while getting a ride to the game with Sally, Joshua, and her parents.  While they weren’t holding hands or cuddling during the trip, I’m sure that Rowen and Tim were both happy about spending that time together; and Michael, Joshua, Sally, and I all had fun too during the two and a half hours it took to get to the Central State stadium.  Sally and Joshua weren’t in on the entire birthday surprise, but we were able to talk about the post-football plans; and their parents didn’t have a problem with them joining us for Rowen’s birthday dinner and a play evening at the sports entertainment center.

We were at the stadium with lots of time to spare before the game, but Lee needed to be early enough for the pre-game pep talk that he was doing with our team; and Sally’s parents wanted to wish her brothers good luck again before the game too.  Once we were in the stadium, Sally was given a cell phone; and the six of us were set free to wander around, pick up some souvenirs, and eventually buy some drinks and snacks before meeting up with a group of parents and going to find our seats.  Rowen and Tim were both all smiles while finally getting around to holding hands while we did a tour of the stadium.  That tiny little change was the difference between being there as six friends and hanging out as three couples; and I can assure you that it was a big deal for Rowen – especially since it was her first time being one half of a teen couple.

There were a few souvenirs that we all wanted to get, and it’s amazing how much customized gear the organizers can come up with in just one week.  I’m sure they have things like player’s photos and bios, team logos, and the season stats; but that still means everything from programs to pins and wearables are put together in under seven days once the competing teams were decided last week.  Of course, for our game, Clairmont may have been added early since this was their fourth trip in a row to the big game; but our team getting here for a second year was only slightly less shocking than our surprise run last year – at least to anyone who hadn’t seen Kyle play yet.

So we’re ready for the championship game part of the recap.

Mom and I didn’t ever go to any stadiums for either sports or concerts, so Central State’s facilities seemed very big to me; though I also know that they have a fairly modest building compared to the really big colleges or professional team buildings.  ‘Our’ little block of seats also seemed small even compared to where the Clairmont fans were sitting on the other side of the field from us; but then we’d have needed to pretty much empty Witch Falls to use up all of the seating that we could have reserved – and about half of the Ridge River District too.  There were several thousand spectators, but most were not supporting one team or the other.  There were media crews, college scouts, and fans, family, and players from other teams; along with mostly local residents or college students looking for some cheap sports entertainment for the afternoon.

We didn’t get a warm, balmy weather day for the game, but it was nice out; and enough above freezing to not be seriously uncomfortable.  Since holding hands and cuddling was now an option for Rowen and Tim; I don’t think they’d have cared if it was below freezing this afternoon.  One good thing about high school matches like this is that we had great seats just to one side of the fifty yard line.  We weren’t the only teens in the Witch Falls contingent, but the six of us had quite a few adults between us and the next closest kids or teens; and Sally and Joshua were only with Rowen, Tim, Michael, and me because of a seat switch so we could sit together.

Even for a championship game, there isn’t all that much pre-game fanfare at the high school level, so it wasn’t much past noon when the opening kick-off was booted by the Clairmont kicker to our team.  This was our first playoff game of the season where we were the ‘away’ team, and while Clairmont won the coin toss and chose to defer and get the ball for the start of the second half; I’m not sure if that was normal for them, or if there was a particular reason why they chose not to start the match with what was the better half of their team according to the stats – their offense.

Whatever the reason, it looked like a good decision when our offense only managed to pick up twenty-three yards before needing to punt on our first drive.  The Clairmont players and coaches all looked very happy with that result – and stayed happy right up until Kyle flattened their quarterback on their second offensive play; scooped up the fumble; and then bulled his way into the end zone for our first touchdown.

Clairmont was a three-time champion, and I’m not going to take anything away from them because they played like champions through the entire game – even when there wasn’t any reasonable chance for them to make up the points deficit in the fourth quarter.  They came right back from that mistake and managed a field goal on their next drive; and a touchdown near the end of the second quarter.  Those were the only highlights for them, though, and there were a lot of bad moments.  Kyle led the way, but the entire defense really stepped it up; and if they weren’t scoring touchdowns, they were leaving our offense with great field position.  We were ahead thirty-one to ten by half-time.

Our cheerleaders took to the field next, and while Jenny and the other girls had fun, did their best, and looked good out there; their little routine seemed very small in that big stadium – and compared to the show the much larger Clairmont squad performed a few minutes later.  I know their school is bigger than ours too, but I’ll guess that having a winning team more often than not helps with the cheerleader recruiting as much as it would for the players.

Getting the ball first in the third quarter didn’t work out at all for Clairmont.  Kyle sacked their quarterback on the first play; and then we got another interception on a hurried throw when the poor guy was trying desperately not to get pounded into the ground a second time in a row.  Our offense may have averaged less than twenty-five yards per possession, but that’s not a problem when half of your drives start in your opponent’s red zone.

Kyle followed that up with a defensive takeaway and touchdown on the next Clairmont drive, and with a forty-five to ten lead at that point; we started kicking field goals for the rest of the game – one before the end of the third, and three in the fourth.  As I mentioned, Clairmont didn’t give up, and played hard right to the end.  They managed to earn ten more points, including a touchdown on a busted play at the start of the fourth quarter; but there was no doubt which was the better team this year.  The final score was fifty-seven to twenty; and Kyle was the easy MVP pick with five defensive turnovers, three touchdowns, and six sacks.  That didn’t even include tackles, tackles for losses, or passes he broke up but didn’t intercept.  Other guys on our defense had good numbers too, but in most cases; they had Kyle to thank for the opportunities.

Kyle got a fair bit of media and scout attention after the game, but the scouts at least were disappointed to find out that he planned on playing ball for his father’s college.  The press loved that, and at least some of them were probably searching for Lee’s old college football records to add to the ‘small-town-kid plays big’ story.

There was about an hour available in between each championship game, and while some of the members of our Witch Falls group had other plans – or were even heading home again after the game; we had tickets for the next match – as did all of the players, coaches, and cheerleaders.  We had enough time to wander around, stretch our legs, and get drink and snack refills before moving to another set of seats.  Most of the parents, including Sally’s and Joshua’s, were still with our team when the next game started, so there were some empty seats around us until about mid-way through the first quarter.  All of our players earned cheers when they joined us, and though that was out of place and not timed with any action on the field; nobody seemed to mind.  Maybe that happened regularly at these championship events.

Tim didn’t get to spend much time with his cousin, but Kyle did talk with us for a couple of minutes before going to sit with Erin and most of the other guys on the team – and their girlfriends.  Jason obviously didn’t have his girlfriend there, but I have no idea how he felt about that because he completely ignored Michael and me.

With all of the older teens around, Rowen started going into shy mode, but Tim stayed close; and kept hold of her hand when she tried a few times to let go and avoid drawing any attention to them.  I know that some of the girls noticed, but if any of the guys did; it was only after hearing about it from a girlfriend first.  I don’t blame them for that – after all, they’d just won a championship; and there was also a football game in progress that was way more interesting than who was holding hands with whom in the junior teen ranks.

I’m going to completely skip the second game re-cap; since I didn’t know anything about either team.  Michael, Tim, and Joshua were as into the game as the rest of the guys; but Rowen, Sally, and I mostly just chatted quietly and enjoyed being there with our boyfriends.

That’s right, Rowen, you’ve joined the club.  Give it a little time; and you’ll get used to the idea.

Before I wrap up the football news, I should back up a bit and mention that Sally and Joshua had some celebration time with their brothers during that second game.  Sally’s older brother, Alex, is in his second year on the team, so this win was a bigger deal for him – just as it was for all of the guys who had lost to Clairmont in the game last season.  Sally’s other brother, Mark, and Joshua’s older brother, Ray, are both in Grade Ten and this is their first year on the team, so while they don’t have the history; they’re very excited to now be part of Witch Falls football history.  They each spent a little time with us too; but were nearly as busy as Kyle was.  Finally, we obviously know all of the players, but didn’t get a chance to talk with all of them this afternoon – or congratulate them.

We talked to Caleb and Erica, and they may have made a point of checking in with us after spending the afternoon together on Thanksgiving.  Jeff Morris talked to us too, but that was because he was with Carolyn after the game when she came looking for us to get Tim and Rowen for the ride over to the hotel.  Cody Carter was the only other guy to talk to us; and he actually sat down for a few minutes at the start of the third quarter.  That little moment was fun because we talked horses more than football; but then he was off to hang out with the other, older teens; and we were on our own again.

We headed to the hotel after the ‘bonus’ game, and while someone had already done the check-in for the players, cheerleaders, and coaches; most of the families that were staying overnight needed to do that before going to our rooms.  Sarah Landry needed to do that for Rowen and me; though our bill was going onto Mom’s pre-authorized account.  Once we were in our room, Rowen and I only had time to freshen up a bit, do our hair, and get dressed for dinner before needing to meet up with Michael, Tim, Sally, and Joshua.  Since the players, their girlfriends, and most of their parents were attending special dinners and league events; we were on our own for Rowen’s birthday dinner – though Sally was given a cell phone again in case of emergency; we had hotel transportation to the restaurant; and pre-arranged pick-up from the sports entertainment center at eleven o’clock for a ride back to the hotel.

That said; the six of us felt like we’d been set free in the big city for the first time ever.  The good news for our parents is that we also took the trust being shown to us seriously; and didn’t take the opportunity to get into any trouble – no matter how much Tim joked about doing just that.  We’d picked out a surf and turf restaurant that was nice but not in any kind of budget range that would have shocked our friends.  Then again, Sally and Joshua were surprised to find out that I was buying for all of us; though they probably assumed that some parental support went into my bank account ahead of time to have that kind of money available on my debit card.  My perspective on that is different for sure; but then I spent about fifteen million dollars this week on some family business work; so that isn’t really fair comparing my view on money compared to most kids or teens.

Dinner was still really good, though not on the same level as Thanksgiving dinner was yesterday.  We had a couple of extra presents for Rowen; and there was a small birthday cake for dessert.  We were at the restaurant for a bit more than an hour and a half; and then we walked to the sports entertainment center – ready to play for a few hours.  Michael and I had really loved our visit to SportsFusion in Crystal Springs when we went there with his family for that last play day before Jake and Stephanie left for New York, and while this place wasn’t as big and had some different activities, it was the same type of fun center; and we all had a blast tonight.

I knew exactly how my best friend would react to some of the extreme games, and while Sally and Joshua were right there with us for everything we tried; this was their first real experience with seeing that side of Rowen – except for maybe if they saw our bike routine during the Fourth of July parade.  They were in the parade too, though, so they might not have caught that act.  There was a rock climbing wall and Laser Tag here, just as there was at SportsFusion; but no giant zip line or trampoline basketball.  They did have a pair of large trampolines with bungee cord harnesses that allowed a safe way to try some pretty cool tricks; an indoor beach volleyball court; and a massive arcade, where collecting tickets to win prizes.  I won’t comment on how lame those prizes were; since we went through a lot of tokens to win a few of them.

Tim needed to joke about why Rowen won so many games tonight, with the top excuse – I mean reason – being that he and the other guys were taking it easy because it was her birthday.  I’m sure that her birthday – and best gift of the year – did have something to do with why Rowen was so motivated and fired up; but Rowen also has that thrill-seeker part of her too.  Since she doesn’t let that side of her out to play very often; Tim just keeps forgetting that it’s there – and seems slightly astonished when she does things like climbing a rock wall while leaving him scrambling to even keep up.  Rowen loved the trampolines too; and she and I were good enough at that to draw a small crowd of spectators while we did flips and somersaults for a few minutes.  Tim won our games of Laser Tag, but with all of their practice with video games; the guys had a distinct advantage for that.

That blast of fun was over too soon, but we were outside with a few minutes to spare before our hotel van service arrived to take us back to the hotel.  Sally and Joshua met up with their parents then, but Tim could only check in with his aunt and uncle because they were still out and celebrating with some of the other parents and teens.  Michael and Tim’s room has two double beds, so we opted to end our evening with watching a movie in their room – possibly because the guys would have thought that all four of us in the one bed in our room was too weird.

I’m not sure whether Rowen would have been that daring if our parents had been at the hotel too, but cuddling in a bed with Tim tonight when they wouldn’t even have held hands in public this morning really is a big step; and for the parents reading this – we didn’t do anything more radical than cuddling while watching the movie.  Well, there were some kisses too; but I wouldn’t classify that as radical either.  Sarah checked in on us when their group got back to the hotel; and we were still in the boys’ room then; so I’m sure that news will make the town news network over the weekend.  We obviously weren’t still in the beds by the time Tim opened the door, but it was also obvious that we had been, and Sarah didn’t even attempt to hide the smile and laughter as she advised us that it was time for Rowen and I to go to our own room and for all of us to get some sleep.  She didn’t wait around to make sure that happened, and while it might have looked suspicious when Michael walked me to my room so that Tim and Rowen could end her birthday with a first goodnight kiss with her first boyfriend; he only stayed with me until Rowen joined us, and then he went back to his room again.

Yes, we took advantage of that time too, Rowen; but I’m sure you knew that we would – and I did mention already that this has been my best-ever, best friend’s birthday; so a spectacular goodnight kiss should be a given.

We took turns in the bathroom; got ready for bed; and have been talking and surfing the web since then.  Sleeping in – at least from my usual morning routine – is an option; but Michael and I are going to meet for Tai Chi early enough that we can do that and still be ready for breakfast at nine o’clock.  Rowen is still on cloud nine, and it may be a while still before we’re able to sleep, but that’s really all I have for tonight; so I’m going to tuck my computer into its case for the night and maybe we’ll be able to talk ourselves to sleep.  There’s a really good chance that we’ll both have some very happy dreams to look forward to; so we really should get to that sooner instead of later.

Live long and prosper, fellow Magi of the Light!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cassie's Journal - November 28, 2013



Happy Thanksgiving!

I guess the only place to start with a day as action-packed as this one has been is at the beginning.

Ethan and Ehlana gave Rowen, Mandy, and I our wake-up call; though Mandy was only willing accept a little cuddling and some scratching before curling up and going back to sleep again for a while.  Rowen opted for a long, hot shower instead of joining Mandy while the rest of us were exercising, so she was ready to go for the day by the time we’d finished our Tai Chi; and helped out with making breakfast with Dad while Mom and I hit the showers next.

She also had time for a little chat with Michael before he went home, and while she attempted to get some birthday hints from him; he earned bonus points for not caving in while also helping Rowen to feel at least a bit better about it too.  Ethan and Ehlana provided her with the pre-breakfast entertainment that helped to keep her distracted for a while; and we were in Thanksgiving planning mode while eating – with Mom giving us the rundown on what needed to be done between the end of breakfast and when we needed to be at Uncle Adam and Aunt Leanne’s house.

Uncle Adam was dealing with the turkey, but we were contributing some of the pre-cooked food for lunch; had prep work to do for the main veggies for dinner; and had to round up everything from bottles of wine to ice cream to take with us.  Mom had dropped off our Olde Bakery contributions yesterday, so we didn’t have boxes of pies and treats too; but by the time Michael came over again to go with us for lunch; we ended up pretty much filling the back of the minivan so that Mom and Dad could haul everything two doors down the street instead of making a half-dozen trips on foot.  Michael, Ehlana, Ethan, and I walked there, but that was mostly because that didn’t take any longer than buckling the twins into their seats for that short of a trip.

Rowen had gone home after breakfast so that she could help her parents out with their own holiday work; and Mom and Dad kept me busy for that few hours of busy before some of us got to get started on the fun parts of the day.  For me, that began pretty much from the moment Aunt Leanne welcomed us into the house and made a big deal about introducing Michael to everyone who was there so far as my boyfriend – though Barb and Corey were the only people there who didn’t know him; and Barb certainly knew his parents and family even if she’d moved away from Witch Falls before he or Rebecca were born.  Since she didn’t use any of the ‘I haven’t seen you since...’ platitudes; it was obvious that Barb didn’t even remember seeing Michael before on any of her rare visits home.  Now that I’m thinking about it, she didn’t even ask us to pass on any greetings to his parents or anyone else in Michael’s family.  While that doesn’t really surprise me; it is a bit sad.  I could say the same thing about parts of our family Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ll get to that with the evening part of the report.

Michael and I were not on the lunch prep crew, and while we played with Ethan, Ehlana, and some of the other kids for a while; we also got to have a turn taking care of Zack too – just in case we didn’t get a chance to do that later.  He was a bit on the cranky side because of the company overload, and he was much happier and quieter after Aunt Leanne nursed him and he went down for a nap right before the rest of us had lunch.  Michael and I weren’t the only lunch guests who wouldn’t be staying for dinner too.  Uncle Nick, Aunt Deborah, and Leah were doing the big meal with his family; and they’d brought Naomi along with them so that she could have a little play time with Ethan and Ehlana while her parents were busy helping Grandma and Grandpa Ayres at their house.  I expected that Michael and I would end up with the younger kids, but the grandparents and great-grandparents ended up doing that while we sat with Mom, Dad, Uncle Nick, and Aunt Deborah.

Is it wrong to suggest that we would have had more fun with the toddlers – especially on Thanksgiving?  Maybe, and it’s not as if the meal conversation was terrible or excruciatingly boring – but it wasn’t great entertainment either.

Since it is Thanksgiving, though, I’ll spare you the details.

Michael and I helped with the clean-up, and then it was time for us to head over to his Uncle Bill and Aunt Sylvia’s house for the rest of the afternoon.  We went through a fairly similar welcome and introduction to the one we’d had at my aunt and uncle’s house; except this time it was Miranda happily introducing me as Michael’s girlfriend; and keeping everyone entertained with that for a few minutes.  One thing that is different – or at least feels more like my family when everyone is home – is that there’s a big age range between oldest and youngest cousin; with Michael and I just about in the middle of that.

While Jake and Stephanie couldn’t be home, Michael’s cousin, Mitch, was home from college for the weekend; and he and Lynn Jennings were having Thanksgiving dinner with his family too.  I don’t know if more coin flips were done like Michael and I did; but Erica Bassett and Caleb Palmer were with us for the big meal too – though with Josiah and Christina at her house this year; the Palmers were having an ‘away’ family holiday anyway.  Rebecca didn’t bring Jason, but that wasn’t a surprise; since they were having issues anyway, and he was probably as focused on football as the rest of our team’s players and coaches are right now.  Of course that didn’t keep Caleb from spending most of the day with Erica; but then they’re a true match – just like Michael and I are.

Since I’m on that thought, let’s skip ahead for a moment to our one outdoor adventure of the day.  Michael and I took Jessica, Ryan, and Sophia out for some play time and fresh air before dinner.  We collected Ethan, Ehlana, Rowen, Patrick, and some of their cousins along the way; and went to the school instead of the park because Mitch and Caleb had gone there for a little pick-up football that Kyle may have nudged along in place of a full team practice if for no other reason than to make sure his teammates didn’t just fatten themselves up all day ahead of the big game.

While I could have lived without the extra football, we had a blast; and there was the added bonus that Tim was there and eventually spent a little time with Michael, Rowen, and me before we all needed to be at our various dinner destinations.  Ryan, Ethan, Patrick, and some of the other, younger boys all got to have football moments too; while the younger girls ended up splitting their time between a little cheerleading fun with Erica and some of the other girls; and some playground action once the younger boys were done with their little football adventure.

I skipped over some in-house, afternoon play and chat time that happened before we went outside, but I won’t do that for the dinner.  There hasn’t been a Thanksgiving dinner that I haven’t loved since moving here – or really even before that; though Mom and I didn’t exactly make huge meals when it was just the two of us.  It also isn’t fair to compare our meal today to any others because most families don’t have a world-class chef cooking most of the food for them.  For those of you who have been lucky enough to experience a Jacob Stone holiday meal; you know what I’m talking about.  For everyone else, ignorance really can be bliss, and you might want to think about skipping this part of the update.

Let’s begin by talking turkey.  If I took some leftovers home, I’m sure that I could give you a very accurate analysis of everything that went into making it, in exact quantities; and scientifically explain the reactions the human body has to the interaction of those flavors and scents.  That would be boring, and do absolutely nothing to describe just how awesome the experience of actually eating the food was for most of us.  I can’t say that for everyone, because there were a couple of people at the table with turkey aversions.  Fortunately for them, Jacob had their special needs taken care of with equally delicious alternatives.

Jacob didn’t cook everything any more than he did everything at the Inn; but his hands at least touched everything that went on the table except for the drinks and Olde Bakery breads, buns, and desserts.  Those touches meant that everything had that little extra-special taste or scent, and in some cases – even the visual display had a special touch added.  I suppose you could say that all five senses were served if you include the feel of the mouth-watering foods and that you heard exactly the right noises you should with everything.

Okay, that seems weird, but you know what I mean.  We’ve all eaten food that isn’t supposed to crunch, but does; and soggy mush when crisp and crunchy should have been the goal is equally unpleasant.  Before you stick any labels on me for that comment, don’t forget that I can remember everything I’ve ever eaten with perfect recall – including every type of baby food Mom experimented with while we figured out what I did and didn’t like.  Most other people have the luxury of forgetting those bad culinary experiences.  The good part of that is getting to remember amazing moments like today too.

Michael and I were at the ‘kids’ section of the dining room table for dinner, but so were Rebecca, Erica, and Caleb; so we had lots of help with the younger kids.  Mitch and Lynn had ‘graduated’ to the adult section of the table now that they were college students; and they were far enough away that we didn’t really talk with them at all – though we did get a chance to hear about some of their college adventures during the clean-up.  I don’t exchange email with either of them; but do get occasional updates about how they’re doing from Alicia – and through my email exchanges with Isabelle and Andrew.

I’ve mentioned the cousin favorites for Michael’s family before, and Erica is still at the top of the list for Jessica and Sophia; though she isn’t able to spend as much time with them as she could before hitting high school and helping out more at the grocery store.  Michael is Ryan’s favorite, and I was again reminded today that we need to try and make more time for Michael’s cousins too – though I have no idea how to juggle everything we should be doing more of when we’re already so busy.  I rarely think about them as cousins because Rebecca and Erica are pretty good friends too, and that bond is stronger again now that they’re both in high school.

Rebecca was quiet today; and I think she was a bit sad too.  That was at least partly because she was the only teen in the house who wasn’t spending the day with a boyfriend or girlfriend; and I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little annoyed that Jason apparently didn’t want to do anything with her – even if they couldn’t have dinner together.  I wouldn’t dream of blaming their entire situation on Jason – especially when a big part of the problem is Jacob, Miranda, and the other adult couples in Rebecca’s life.  They’ve set the bar for happily-ever-after so high that it’s tough for any potential boyfriends – or girlfriends – who might be interested in their kids to measure up.

I’ve been doing okay with that so far, but don’t forget that only a few people in Michael’s family know that I’m a billionaire Magi Master.  :^)  Fortunately, everyone else seems to like me well-enough too without that information.

So dinner was best-ever kind of awesome, and the younger cousins kept us entertained while we ate.  The clean-up was massive, but we managed to have fun with that too for the hour or so it took to get the dining room and kitchen sparkling clean again.  That was the end of the Bassett-Stone family Thanksgiving for Michael and me – and for a handful of other guests that needed to move on to other commitments for the evening.  The good bye hugs and kisses took a while, particularly with the younger kids; but eventually Michael and I were on our way back to Uncle Adam and Aunt Leanne’s house to hang out there for a couple of hours.

I didn’t get all of the details until later, after we were home for the night; but their big dinner was apparently quite the adventure – and not always in a good way.  Aunt Leanne hadn’t tried springing any major surprises on Barb, knowing that wouldn’t go over well with her childhood best friend; but it doesn’t sound as though inviting Barb’s family to dinner went nearly as well as she’d hoped it would.

Since readers may be getting this story in the distant future, I’ll add a little background here.

Barb’s parents are Stan and Betty Benton.  They’re from the early baby-boomer crop born in the first few years after World War Two, so they’re recently semi-retired; and I think they’re a very nice couple – though I don’t really know them very well.  They have three children, but Barb’s older brother and sister are ten and a bit more than eleven years older than she is, and while I know that kind of age gap will never be a problem for Ethan, Ehlana, and me; it was for Barb while she was growing up.  I’m not going to go into everything, so let’s just say that Barb’s parents live a modest, happy life.  They don’t score success by the numbers in their bank accounts; and are content and feel blessed by what they do have – loving friends and family.  They have five grandchildren; four of them are currently in college; the fifth graduated a couple of years ago and works and lives in Crystal Springs; and they’re very proud of all of them.  Three of them were home, and at the Thanksgiving dinner; while the other two are at schools too far away for them to afford flying home for just four days.

Everyone who had been there for dinner was still at the house when Michael and I got there, and the empathic vibes were strong enough that Michael probably sensed at least some of what was going on even without overtly using his empathy.  We were there while some childhood storytelling was going on; and there was a wide range of reactions to those memories.  Barb was mortified by anything that revealed how poor her family was – and is now by her standards.  While I knew that she and Corey both don’t want to have kids, I’m sure now that the main reason Barb feels that way is because she still resents spending so much of her teen years babysitting her nieces and nephews – especially because she was often doing that for free while her parents, brother, sister, and their spouses all worked jobs that didn’t pay enough to afford ‘real’ babysitters or nannies.

When you’re reading this sometime in the future, Ethan and Ehlana; be glad that I love spending the time with you – and getting paid in hugs and kisses.  I really hope you remember that in case you find yourselves in Barb’s position some day and get asked to babysit your nieces and nephews.

Don’t worry Mom and Dad – I don’t plan on getting around to that part of my life for quite a while yet!

Okay, without dragging this out endlessly; the Benton family reunion wasn’t all joy and happiness; but they were at least mostly together for the first time in years.  That made Barb’s mother happy and sad, which is why I’m sure that my thoughts tonight about helping Barb’s family out will be an easy sell for Mom and Aunt Leanne when I talk to them about it next week.  If nothing else, they have four grandkids that will be graduating from college over the next few years; and I’m sure we can find work for them that will get their careers off to a good start – whether they want to live here in Witch Falls or somewhere else.

Michael and I split our time between a visit with the adults in the living room and play time with the kids on the third floor.  I got to have a bit of time with Zack too, but that was right before Aunt Leanne nursed him and put him to bed in his crib.  The goodbyes started right before that, and continued on until Mom, Dad, Ethan, Ehlana, Michael, and I were the last guests standing.  We helped with a last round of cleaning and dishwashing; and then headed home too.  Michael came in and stayed long enough to help with getting Ethan and Ehlana into bed; we had a short chat with Mom and Dad that included one last run-through of our plans for Friday and Saturday; and then Mom and Dad went up to bed while Michael and I spent five or ten minutes saying goodnight to each other in a completely non-verbal way that left us both smiling when he headed over to his house.

I’ve been in my room since then, and have been busy with getting my bag packed for the trip; wrapping Rowen’s gifts; and spending some time with my Jacuzzi.  Somehow we fit all of that fun into one day, and it was only a bit past midnight when I hopped into bed with Mandy and started the lite version of my nightly computing.  We’re skipping Tai Chi in the morning because of the Black Friday breakfast buffet at the Inn, but I still need to be up early; so it’s time to wrap this up and get some sleep.

This was an awesome start to the holiday weekend, and if all goes well; tomorrow will be even better!

Live long and prosper, fellow Magi of the Light!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cassie's Journal - November 27, 2013



Rowen and I are stretched out at opposite ends of the sofa in the lounge, watching a Christmas movie; chatting; and winding down after a busy day.  Mom, Dad, Ethan, Ehlana, and Mandy are all sleeping, and since my temporary third-floor neighbor is in Woodvale tonight; it’s pretty quiet around here now.

Other than while we exercised; I wouldn’t have used quiet to describe anything about our morning here.  Barely controlled chaos would be more accurate.  I helped out where I could with breakfast, the clean-up, and getting Ehlana ready for her play day at KidZone and with Grandma and Grandpa; but that didn’t leave me with much time to spend with Violet while she packed and got ready for her trip and busy day.

I was on my way to meet up with Rowen, Michael, and Rebecca on the way to school before anyone else left, so I missed the rest of the action going on there between when I left and when Mom and Violet each headed out on their trips to the airport and Woodvale respectively.  Violet ended up going shopping with Mom after Ethan and Ehlana were dropped off at KidZone, and the main reason for that might have been to check out what Abby had in stock for the holiday weekend sale that Violet was going to miss this year.  Mom appreciated the help with the groceries, but they didn’t spend a lot of time doing either kind of shopping before Mom needed to meet up with Aunt Leanne and Zack; and head out to get Barb and Corey from the airport.

Everything going on at school today was turkey-day-related; and none of our teachers tried very hard to get any serious lessons taught – possibly because they were all as excited about a four-day weekend as their students.  I’m sure that there were some classes in the younger grades that weren’t given any homework for the weekend; but our class wasn’t that lucky.  We didn’t have anything that needed to be done today, though, and since the main assignment can’t be done until after Thanksgiving anyway; Michael, Tim, Rowen, and I skipped the usual after-school studying.  That was the good news.

The not-so-much-fun news was that it’s a holiday weekend; and my three favorite friends were all working instead.  Since Ethan and Ehlana were with Grandma and Grandpa anyway, and Mom wasn’t back from the airport run yet; I ended up going to the computer store with Rowen and helping out with getting everything ready for the big weekend sale.  I’d been torn between doing that and hanging out at the Inn with Michael, but he suggested that I spend the time with Rowen; since we’d be together for most of the day on Thanksgiving – and wouldn’t have much time for Tim or Rowen while we were all busy with our families.

He probably also noticed that Rowen has been getting more anxious the closer we get to her birthday, and that’s part of the reason we decided to start our holiday weekend with a sleepover.  The other reasons were because we spent the evening babysitting Ethan and Ehlana while Mom and Dad were at Uncle Adam and Aunt Leanne’s for the evening and because Rowen needed rescuing from a Patrick and Scott sleepover at her house.  I’m fairly glad that we got to be here instead of being around for either of those other events.

I am really happy for Aunt Leanne that Barb made the effort to come here in person to see her childhood friend’s first baby; but I also have to be honest and admit that hanging out with Barb and Corey would be very low on my to-do list pretty much any day.  Most people wouldn’t understand that sentiment from looking at them.  Barb and Corey look like the perfect power couple; they’re incredibly happy together; and obviously love each other.  That’s all fine and great for them, but it’s the fakery they use to hide their distain for pretty much everything about my home – and the things I love most about it – that gets to me so easily.

They’re never going to know the truth about us, and I wouldn’t want them to anyway; but then Barb and Corey would never understand our life choices if they did know that we could literally live anywhere and do anything we wanted.  I guess that does go both ways, because I don’t understand why Barb would so easily walk away from the family, friends, and love she had growing up here when I’d have loved to have connections with friends that I’ve known since infancy.  I’m certainly grateful that I’ll be able to say that I have best friends that I’ve known since I was nine.

Without dragging those thoughts out any longer, let’s just say that Barb and Corey look at life and happiness very differently than I do; I hope they have a fun weekend with Uncle Adam, Aunt Leanne, and Zack; and move on.

Rowen’s parents were keeping the store open late tonight – as were most store owners in town – so Rowen came home with me for dinner.  We didn’t add the sleepover plan for sure until after finding out that we were babysitting; and that news flash came while we were helping to cook dinner for six.  Dad was head chef tonight while Mom got to have a break after her long drive, and the dinner entertainment was a complete exchange of stories about what we’d each been doing all day.  It was an all-tween clean-up crew of two with supervisory assistance from Ethan and Ehlana while Mom and Dad got ready to go out; and then we all went over to Uncle Adam and Aunt Leanne’s house.

Four of us were only stopping in to say hello to Barb and Corey, and then Ethan, Ehlana, and I went with Rowen to her house so she could pack an overnight bag before we headed home again.  It was play time in my room and the lounge after that.  We played and sang some Christmas music; had a mini video game competition; and wrapped up Ethan and Ehlana’s night with an animated Christmas movie.  We used my Jacuzzi for their bedtime bath; had the snack and story time in the lounge; and then Rowen and I had the twins tucked in their beds nearly a full half-hour before Mom and Dad got home.

In case you’re wondering, yes they stayed up late; and no, we can’t fool Mom about things like that thanks to our links with her.

Rowen and I had started our next Christmas movie by the time Mom and Dad got back; and we took a short break when they checked in on us before going to bed.  They had a few fun stories to tell us about their evening, and didn’t say enough about other things to have me sure they were glad to be home again.

It’s been movie and girl chat time since Mom and Dad left for their room; and Rowen’s mostly needed to talk about Tim and her birthday.  I really feel bad that I can’t tell her anything, but we’re not that far away from springing at least the first of the surprises on her; and I’m sure she’ll think that it’s worth the wait.  Entertaining ourselves with making plans for Tim that I know won’t be necessary has been a fun diversion for her, and since I won’t see her much tomorrow except in the morning before she heads home; I’m fairly confident that we’re going to keep her birthday plans a surprise until Friday.

I’m sure that’s why I’m quietly more fired up about her birthday that Rowen is right now, though she’ll probably spend more time thinking about it tomorrow than I will while we’re both busy with our family Thanksgivings.

That’s something else that I’m really excited about tonight – sharing this holiday with Michael and our families.  Rowen wishes she was doing the same thing with Tim, so I’m keeping that low key and not saying much about it; though we did talk about having a little visit at Rowen’s house sometime tomorrow afternoon or evening if we can work that out.  I’d suggest getting together with Tim too, but with Thanksgiving and the big football game; he’s likely going to be too busy with his family to add anything else to his day.  I’ll ask Michael about it in the morning just in case he has any ideas that might at least help to brighten Rowen’s Thanksgiving Day a little bit.

That’s all I have for now, and while we still have the last third or so of the movie to watch, I’m going to put my computer to bed now; and possibly fall asleep here on the sofa before the end of the show.  It isn’t all that late, but I am going to be rested and ready for the next few days of extreme fun!

Live long and prosper, fellow Magi of the Light!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cassie's Journal - November 26, 2013



Violet’s just gone over to her room after finishing a little bedtime chat with me, and it’s closing in on midnight fast; so I’m going to keep this as short as possible tonight; though there’s a fair bit to cover.

First up, this was Violet’s last full day here; and the chat tonight was mostly because it was our last chance to do that before she’ll be heading to Woodvale with Dillon sometime tomorrow morning.  The funny thing tonight is that I’ve started to see the family juggling problem from her perspective; thanks to a coin flip earlier tonight that decided whether I’d be having Thanksgiving dinner with Michael and his family on Thursday – or he’d be doing that with mine.  I don’t think of that as a win or lose for either of us; but we will be having the big meal with the Bassett-Stone family.

The only news I’m going to include from school today is about band practice; and that’s mostly because we did that outdoors.  Mrs. Robinson wanted us to get used to playing in the cold; and the only way for that to happen is to actually do it.  The temperature was only slightly above freezing, and while it could easily be colder for the parades we’re doing; that was cold enough to help us understand what we’ll be dealing with.  I’m very glad that Rowen, Michael, and I listened to the senior teen advice and bought the fingertip-less gloves; but it was still very uncomfortable to sit in the cold and play music for three-quarters of an hour – and each parade will be closer to around an hour long.  The good news there is that I’m not too cool and proud to wear thermal underwear if that means not freezing my butt off; and I’ll be getting a new set from the emporium sometime between now and our next practice.

One thing we won’t have during the parades is Tim goofing on us while we play the way he was doing today from the warmth and comfort of the cafeteria.  He was splitting his time between doing that and watching the football practice; which is why he still had all of his homework to do when we all went to the computer store to do that.  We now have day two in the books without giving anything away to Rowen, so I guess his antics did help out some – by giving Rowen something else to think about other than the hope-dread thing she has going on about what will happen – or not – on Friday.  We didn’t have very much studying to get done, since tomorrow will practically be a play day ahead of the long weekend; so we mostly just hung out together until Michael and I needed to get over to his house for dinner.

Other than the Thanksgiving dinner coin toss decision, the only other major news from that part of my evening was about Rebecca.  She and Jason are having issues this week.  He’s mad at her because she’s not going to the championship game on Friday; and she’s frustrated that he doesn’t get why her parents need her to stay and help at the Inn more – especially since Michael is going to the game.  To be fair, Miranda and Jacob would have let her go too if Rebecca had really wanted to do that, but it really will be crazy at the Inn – especially on Friday – and I honestly don’t think that Rebecca felt comfortable with the idea of being away overnight with Jason when there would be minimal parental supervision.  She told me that Jenny isn’t happy about it either, which has me wondering if there were other plans being made – like roommate swaps.

I’d better just not write anything else about that thought just in case my current opinion on that kind of thing changes sooner rather than later! :^)

Dinner, the teen-managed clean-up, my guitar lesson, and our chat time with Miranda and Jacob were all pretty normal and uneventful – except maybe for that coin toss.  I was on my way home by nine o’clock; and did the bedtime routine with Ethan and Ehlana before wrapping up my night with my Magi lesson with Mom that Violet sat in on; and our girl chat time after I’d already done most of my bedtime computing.

Ethan, Ehlana, and I will only get to see Violet before I head to school in the morning and they go to KidZone for the day.  Mom has her holiday weekend shopping to do after that, and then she and Aunt Leanne are taking Zack on the road and going to pick up Barb and Corey Collins at the airport.  Violet and Dillon will be on the road before noon for sure; mostly because they have some errands they want to run before being home before Chris, Martin, and Dawn are finished school for the day.

That all sounds busier and more exciting than my school day is likely to be, but Rowen and I are doing some babysitting tomorrow night while Mom and Dad spend the evening at Uncle Adam and Aunt Leanne’s house, and we might do a sleepover too; so I’m sure we’ll have fun too even if we aren’t doing any road trips or shopping.

A sleepover might mean this will be my last bonus sleep time night for a while, though; so it’s time to get started on that...right...now!

Live long and prosper, fellow Magi of the Light!