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LOBSTER NIGHT AND THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Long ago, my husband and I vowed to love, honor and spend New Year's Eve at home.

Amateur Night is not for us. We'd rather go out on any of the other 364 days of the year. (We don't, of course . . . but we'd rather.)

Our celebration used to be romantic, replete with blue-stemmed champagne flutes and a late gourmet supper. We laughed at comedy on the tube. We listened to music. Sometimes we were still awake at midnight, sometimes not.

When our son, Jake, was about 3, our New Year's Eve traditions bit the dust, along with cursing, watching "Jeopardy!" (conflicts with "Rugrats") and other adult pleasures.

Time to retool New Year's Eve.

Now we start with a family pilgrimage to Tops, Erik's annual exception to his firm anti-shopping stance. We buy live lobsters from the tank, one per person.

At home, Erik wears his special lobster apron. Butter is melted, lobsters are boiled. The stereo is stacked with favorite CDs.

We pour ginger ale in Jake's goblet and champagne in ours. The menu is simple: salad, bread, lemon wedges. And, of course, lobsta.

We crack, pick, dunk and swoon. Happily for us, Jake doesn't really like lobster much. We split his uneaten beast and keep dunking.

When we come up for air, we each -- except Jesse, who's 2 -- answer a list of questions we started asking on New Year's Eve 1994:

What was your favorite book this year? What was the best movie you saw? Most fun holiday? Most riveting news story, favorite family outing, proudest accomplishment?

I keep a record of our answers, stapling each year's sheet atop the one from the year before.

Without these lists, I would never remember that Jake's favorite song from 1996 was "Chicken Soup With Rice" or that he chose "people in boats in floods" as the most memorable news story.

Erik's favorite movies back in '95 were "Pulp Fiction" and "Braveheart" (tie), and mine was "My Life," which I intend to tell Michael Keaton if I ever meet him.

My favorite song from that year was a parody of "Wind Beneath My Wings," which I wrote and sang for Buffalo News garden columnist Ken Brown at his 40th birthday party.

The questions are fun and get us thinking about our year, individually and as a family. From there, resolutions come easily.

If you decide to get all gussied up and go to First Night or another bash on New Year's Eve, have fun! And please, please -- choose a designated driver.

Me? I'll be wiping butter from my chin and trying to convince Erik that "My Best Friend's Wedding" was his favorite movie of 1997.

Jake will be deciding which was better, "George of the Jungle" or "Flubber."

We'll all watch the baby's reaction to his first lobster. With my luck, he'll love it.

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