Friday, January 30, 2009

Baby Girl Bling

Look close! Lissa has bling! She got her ears pierced tonight at long last. Kirsty wanted to do her ear piercing when she was an infant. While I agree that seems very easy, she had immune system issues that made me chary of poking holes in her.
Then we thought maybe we should wait till she was old enough to express interest--little realizing that this would come at the tender age of 2. For the past several months she has been eyeballing and fingering Kirsty's earrings (or mine on those odd days when I remember to wear some) and saying "oooh pretty." Actually it is more like "ooooh, pree" but we knew what she meant. Then she would point to her ears and say "pree ME" most emphatically. I talked with some friends who said the most optimal way to pierce at her age was to have both done simultaneously.
Tonight I had the kids at the mall getting birthday gifts for Kirsty and the Piercing Pagoda had two techs on duty and there was virtually no one around. Gotta love the quiet at the mall but it is a sad reflection on the economy. Not even the kids that usually hang out there. . . but anyway, I decided to do her ears since everything seemed to be falling into place. She helped pick out her first earrings. They are birthstone ones and she didn't even cry. She whimpered and looked like she was going to let loose with one of her glass breaking whoops when it was first done, but then we held the mirror up right away and she was entranced with the look of her new earrings.

January's nearly done!

I just happened to look at the calendar and it fully registered in my dull headachy little brain that we have nearly finished the first month of the year. This seems incredible to me. Time has a way of moving at warp speed these days, both at work and at home.

Today I only worked a 1/2 day, which was a real gift to our family. I came home early so that Kirsty could get the van inspected and do a few needed errands with out the entire tribe in tow. Made things a lot easier for her.

KC and Rob played in the back yard in the snow. Lissa stayed inside and played with me. Then later KC and I made valentine decorations. He made a cat out of valentines for his nana who is a very serious lover of cats and laboriously wrote "you are purr-fect!" on it. It is really cute and we will mail this up to her.

Tonite I will take Chet out to purchase his birthday gift for Kirsty. Her birthday is coming up in the first part of February and he is stressing because he doesn't have the actual gift in hand yet. Tomorrow promises to be a busy day for me and the kids so it might be easier to run this errand tonight. And at any rate, in Chet's case, alleviating stressors that we can, as quickly as possible is always a good thing.

Oh and the picture at the top of my blog got changed a few days back. I put up a pic of the hearts poster the kids made for our dining room!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Icy Excitement

This may not fall under "excitement" but we had another ice storm. That makes i think three this winter. I may have forgotten one. I can't EVER recall a winter with so much ice. Sorta makes me think my eldest's gloom and doom prognostications about what we are doing to the planet may not be so far off the mark.

This a.m. I went sliding out to my car and attempted to clean it off. In an odd twist of events I own a parking space next door to our house and that is where I park my car as the van and our camper take our driveway pretty much. You can fit my car in if you really want to but i think it generally easier this way.

Easier except in times of bad weather. Everytime I tried to get the ice off the top of the car I literally slid away from the vehicle. Faced with landing on my butt before getting said butt to work, or potentially getting a ticket for snow on the top of the car, i opted for a potential ticket. I work 3 miles from my house. I know the police officers. The goddess will protect me! :-) I eventually de-ice the Metro and head to work after throwing a bunch of rock salt over the lower 1/2 of the driveway. The boys were supposed to chip this out later and take out the trash and recycling.

My co worker has been ill for 4 days and was finally well enough to return to the office. This meant I could actually LEAVE the office for a brief time (some people call this lunch hour!! a treat I don't get all that often as things are so hectic lately) Today's treat was really called "inspect the Metro."

I have been stressing over this. My car is a 98. It is rusting badly. It is elderly. I don't know the last time I changed the oil. But OTOH I don't drive it a lot. It only has 67K miles on it. Really. The whole family can't fit in it anymore so it is just to take me or Kirsty to work, the 3 mile commute. And in the good weather I bike and it sits home.

But. . . my rocker panal is really rusting out badly. My coworkers I think had a betting pool on whether I was getting a rejection sticker. But I took that baby down and IT PASSED! The little dear even passed emissions! I think all the ice and crud all over it from the storm may have helped to disguise the sorry rusty state of the aforementioned rocker panal. But whatever, I am legal for another year!

Got home and Kirsty had had to scrape the driveway as the boys hadn't. Hmmmm. Boys had also "forgotten" trash and recycling. They were sent out by me to rectify this and by now it was cold again and the shed had iced shut and they had to chip it out to get the door open. Ha! I am all for logical consequences like that! ROFL

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Of snow, ice and baseball

Snow, ice, shovel , repeat! Yup, that is the mantra for this particular New England winter anyway. I am really ready to be done with the rough weather. I am lucky that my aged little Metro behaves really well in bad weather, but I still hate ice. Driving stick only helps so much when it is ice. I worked through my lunch and left work an hour early because the roads were so icky. On the plus side it was nice to be home with the gang a bit earlier; the kids all looked so shocked when I came in.

I got an email from Little League to see if Rob wanted to sign up this year. Last year I had to move heaven and earth to get Kirsty to agree to signing him up. To say she is not into organized sports would be the understatement of the century. She finally did agree but it was up to me to do the rooting on and the various parental duties that came with the sport. This was fine with me; I was also the Swim Class parent and when he did basketball, yup that was on my watch too! LOL

Anyway I got the impression that Robbie adored Little League. But when I asked if he wanted to sign up again he said no. I asked why, as this year he was eligible to be in the majors. (last year he was fairly indignant over starting in the minors) He informed me that the players got hit by balls a lot more in the majors so if he couldn't play in the minors he guessed he wasn't interested. I think that may be part of it. I think part of it is also about the fact that he isn't Big Papi and he was pretty sure he was till he had a year of Little League under his belt. His coach was really nice, so I know nothing rotten happened; but with Rob if one doesn't become the star in 15 minutes or less, he is pretty done with the experience.

I'm glad he shared that with me before I eeked out $125 for a season of play that he didn't really want! On the other hand, he does want to return to the summer camp he attended last year for a week. This is a conference center run by our religious denomination. I think what helps make it great for him is that there are only 40 kids there, and it is a place we have been to as a family. So even there by himself, it isn't really the unknown. And it is a cool place. He even told me he didn't care if his friend wasn't going this year, so obviously it was a really good experience.

Watching him mature is such a fascinating experience. It is rather uneven--there is still a catching up of little kid things that I find him doing via his time with KC or Lissa, but a growing maturity and I find myself often musing about the kind of young man he will become.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Big Snow?

There's been a lot of snow this year! Enough to make this really REALLY big snow man in our back yard. To give you perspective, Robbie is nearly 5 foot tall and the snowman isn't much shorter than he is. Mighty plump, too that snow buddy!
Rob and KC had a great time creating this guy. He is guarding our garden shed in the back yard. Another foot of snow is headed our way on Wednesday. Sometimes spring seems very far away!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On to the next!

OK I think Christmas is finally done! It was a busy, fun and exhausting day. Not necessarily in that order. We were up by 6:30 as we have to leave our house by 8 to get to church on time. Actually if I knew that Dunkin Donuts wasn't going to be crowded and if I knew the roads were always clear I could leave at about 8:15. But sometimes Dunkins is really crowded and as this is KC's breakfast, I have to factor that in. So we actually got to church a goodly bit early but it was nice to sit and listen to the youth choir practice. KC liked looking at all the drums that Matt Meyers brought with him. www. is I think a website that gives his bio and talks about his music. He is an amazing young man with a great musical gift. I love hearing his music. Watching him when he plays I see some of the same traits in KC. KC sort of shuts his eyes when he plays music and seems to be spirit wise, some place else. Matt is like that too. KC stayed in church with me for the whole service soaking up the musical ambiance like the little music sponge that he is. Matt's talk on social justice was pretty cool too as far as I was concerned. Want another reason not to buy from Mickey D's? They used to buy their tomatos from businesses in FL that treated their workers essentially like slaves. Took the workers 9 years to get better pay and treatment.

After service, I never went to fellowship, but gathered the kids and boogied for home. I knew Kirsty would be stressing over getting things ready for her family's visit and sure enough, she was.

Rob and I stepped into the breech as it were. I made place cards and he set the table. I got the salad together and Lissa in her party duds. I frosted and decorated Lynne's birthday cake and before long, we were set. Everyone was set to arrive between 11:00 and 11:30. Dad and Lynne (K's sis) arrived on time. No sign of brother Bri and his girlfriend. Hmmm. Clock ticks. KC is antsy. His grampa has walked in with presents and now he can't touch them. He watches anxiously out the window. Still no sign of Uncle and his girlfriend. Finally Lynne says she told them to come between 12 and 12:30 because after all they are always late anyway. What??? Why would you do that? Now they will be even later. Which they were, but of course they didn't know they were an hour late becuase of the inaccurate time given by Lynne. Note to self: next year convey details ourselves. No middle person. I think some family members (naming no names LOL) may have a bit of passive aggressive issues going on and love mucking up the works.

And the works did get mucked because by 12:45 Lissa had to go down for a nap and KC was cranky as all get out from the tenterhooks feeling of impending presents and a lack of food. Probably for the first time in the 30 yrs Lynne and i have known each other did I quietly give her a sincere talking to about what her actions did. I am not sure whether she just has no clue how kids have only so much stamina for waiting (we are the only people in the family with children) or if she just likes screwing things up.

Bri finally got there and I sure didn't want him to know what the delay caused. AFter all, he thinks they are only a few minutes late. So we do presents while Lissa is sleeping. They are very generous and loving in their choice of gifts for the kids, and seem genuinely appreciative of the gifts we and the kids made for them. We have dinner. Yum. Everything delish and Bri and Dad mention how we always "do" things nicely. On their own they all eat take out and TV dinners so it must look like something out of a BBC movie when we all 12 sit down to table together! :-) It was simple fare but tasty. The funny thing is I bet they had no clue that they were eating vegetarian crumbles for the beef in the ziti bake. There are only 2 slices of lemon merenque pie left and Lynne took her bday cake home. We were finally able to wake Lissa after we ate and she opened her gifts then.

Then we could all relax and socialize a while, eventually the X Games got turned on. Robbie loves them and in a bizarre twist of fate, I have always liked them. I am sort of an adrenaline junkie who had to swear to my spouse that I would do nothing high risk while we had children under 18. I snuck karate past her for 12 yrs (by the time she realized how many people in my class were getting wrecked I was so far along toward my second degree black belt that she toughed it out) I often tease her that the reason she has always agreed to adding children to our family is that at this rate I'll be something like 72 when I get to hike the AT end to end, try bungee jumping and take that rapelling class I've always wanted to do.

But I digress. So I sate my adrenaline rush third party watching people do back flips on snowmobiles! Rob I know would never in a billion years try anything like that so it is totally safe to watch it with him. KC now, I don't know. The night before we watched the slope style snowboarding and he was practicing his moves jumping off the couch!

Eventually everyone decided to head out for their respective homes and I set about restoring order and removing Christmas for real. KC has been dying to do another valentine craft and as we took down the Yule mural tonite, he and I did one. Rob and KC have spent a couple of weeks messing around with water colors and seeing what the colors would do with different papers and treatments. They have both enjoyed it. I had about 16 pages of impressionistic art and we cut them into hearts and glued them onto a big posterboard. It looks stunning. He is thrilled and it truly brightens the dining room. It struck me that although it was a decoration for a new holiday it was also a bright and tangible symbol of what was best and brightest about this day, the love that holds our crazy and diverse family together!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Yuletide Joy?

Hard to believe but all the holly jolly hasn't ended at our house! Tomorrow we have Christmas w/ Kirsty's side of the family. They like to get together after Christmas so they can buy our gifts on sale. (really! They told us!) And we don't really mind because December is so crazy busy with Yule and Solstice and Lissa's birthday and Christmas . . . you get the drift. Yet although I always enjoy it when they arrive, I am just not really in that holly jolly place any more. It is done as far as my mind set is concerned. I want to think about seed catalogs. I want to take bets on whether the groundhog will see his shadow and try and figure out how many camping trips we'll eek out this year.

But for tomorrow, I have to pretend I am in the merry Christmas mode! And I know that the spirit of giving and all that should happen all the time, so I sort of feel rather scroogy over the fact that I am just not into this right now.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to church tomorrow. There is going to be a very talented young percussionist leading the service. We have heard him before, once at a peace vigil, once at a church service. KC adores his music. When he heard Matt Meyers was playing in the service he announced he would not be attending church school that day because he wants to hear the drums. My guy loves all things musical. So we will be in service and also I am glad to be there as Robbie gets to light the chalice this Sunday. His coming of age class has to help with some component of the church service during the year and that was what he chose to do. Doesn't involve speaking so he is cool with it.

So I know I'll be in a good place when I get home (mentally I mean) and they arrive. And truthfully I love being around them all. I just love it more when it isn't a gifty thing as they are very high end consumers and we are very low end, tend to make our gifts type of folks. I always wonder if they pitch what we give after they get home. I need to get over that. I give apple pie filling and salsa. Who in their right mind would pitch that???

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inaguration Thoughts

I didn't get to watch this in real time. I was at work and didn't have access to a television. I have a computer but it doesn't have working speakers (my work one anyway!) so I could have seen them mouth their oaths but that would have been sort of weird. So I listened when my wife called me with tears in her voice still. She told me how those tears ran freely down her face as she watched, how she and our boys stood silently and watched as this new president took his oath.

I watched recaps of as much as I could when I got home. Images have swirled in my mind ever since. It has been hard to have them coalesce into anything that makes sense. It is like the fractured bits of pictures that one sees when looking through a kalaidoscope. Something beautiful, something magical, but hard to explain.

One of those swirling picture bits was all the flags waving as 2 million people stood joyfully in the cold to celebrate this day. To be present and to witness. To be part of history, tradition and also change. 2 million people so moved, so present that there was not a single arrest. I can't wrap my mind around that. I live in a city of 46000 and we have arrests at every large public gathering. But there was not one there that day. To me, there was something so hopeful and so positive about 2 million people bringing their best selves there that day.

Another was an image of energy. I know the key word there is probably image. And there is no guarantee that an image is truly reality. But I was struck by the energy, enthusiasm and joyful demeanor of the Obama family. All of them seemed unafraid to just be themselves. To smile and wave. Not the little bored waves that one typically sees. Just all out, "hey there how are you" waves. And smiles so big that no one was thinking "does this look nice for the cameras."

I am glad that I live in a country where change could happen without bullets. Without the kind of desparate fighting that say, brought an end to apartheid in S. Africa. I was proud that for this one moment in time, we truly did transcend race. We voted beliefs. I didn't vote for Obama because he was a black man. I voted for him because I felt his platform, while not fully attainable made sense to me. And I voted against John McCain because he indicated a willingness to support a draft and I am a mother of 3 boys. I don't want my boys drafted into wars that only make sense to oil markets. I become incensed everytime I hear a newscaster tell of another young person who has died "to protect the USA." Died to protect the interests of the USA perhaps. But not the people. I truly believe we are not in a situation where that kind of risk is upon us, or if it is, that we are safer because of this response.

The image of our new President with his hand on the Lincoln Bible will stay with me always. As a parent I am always telling my children that they can be whatever they set their minds to. But to be fair to them, and to help them stay safe, I have had to teach them other things too. Things like DWB, things like how sometimes they have to be "better" than a white peer just to be viewed as "equal." But for that one prismatic moment in time, we didn't need any of those qualifiers to our life experience. We could revel in the moment, in the joy that our country does overwhelmingly want a change.

I hope the country is ready for the sacrifice that will be necessary to enact that change. But I have hope. Because if 2 million people could get along on January 20, 2009, well maybe anything is possible.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Catching my breath

The weeks since vacation have been a whirlwind of activity for me at work. I knew it would be. I still wouldn't have done things differently. The long stretch of time with my family was a gift we all needed. But it did make for a rough return.

The office is always busy in January. Usually mundanities but things that take time. Changing files, removing old data. We have to save 3 yrs of stuff so there is this big shuffle of what to keep and what to consign to the lower depths. My company keeps talking about shredding old files pre-1990 but haven't done it yet. I have worked there since 78. Trust me, LOTS of files and lots of shuffling.

I need to complete a census of all residents for the city I live in. Time consuming since there are more than 300 apartments that I manage.

And this year, for reasons unknown to our staff, our regional mgr scheduled our annual audit by the local overseeing agency for January. It has been March for the 30 yrs I have worked there. This year, she thought January was nicer. Swell. There are tons of additional exhibits of paperwork that must be generated just to prepare for the auditors. My home office also decided it would be a nifty time for me to generate a spread sheet of data to prepare for a rent increase. I could feel my stress level rising as the month wore on.

Today was the audit day. 3 auditors descend on my office. 1 is nice. 2, well harder to read. They weren't nice last year when they essentially told me my files were not up to agency standard. I am an ultra organized Virgo type. That didn't sit well. What it boiled down to was overseeing federal agency had changed the regs on what should be in said files and had in its infinite wisdom failed to disseminate that information to field offices such as mine. Oh joy. So I have looked forward to this years visit with all the enthusiasm I would save for a doctor visit.

But things went well. I had obviously implemented all the new things they had discovered the previous year. They were happy. I was happy that they noticed that I had made the changes in a timely manner. Apparently afraid that I might become giddy with compliments, they waited till I had left the room before telling my office assistant that the files were "beautiful." Poor thing was horrified that they were telling her and said "but I told them you do the files!" Whatever.

It isn't that I want the accolades. But I know that future funding, and even the type of audits that we face, depend on getting the best scores possible. I don't know yet what our final score is, but it seems likely that we did very well. In my line of work this is far from our only audit. There is another one taking place at our main office right now. I have had to send files and data to them for this for weeks. And there are two other oversight reviews that can happen this year as well. But for now, I don't need to worry about that. I have survived this one and things are well. And that is enough.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday snow

OK enough all ready! I woke this Sunday to that stillness that I know means it is snowing. I actually like that. Except that this is the second Sunday in a row. Last Sunday they cancelled childrens programming at church so I felt justified in staying home. This Sunday they didn't. And Rob's coming of Age class was scheduled to meet with mentors and talk about the pictures the kids chose as answers to their questions. Also KC and I were to pass out paper people at the back of the church as people entered the sanctuary as part of the Justice Sunday celebration. So I looked outside, decided it wasn't that bad out and optimistically set out with the boys. Lissa and Kirsty stayed home, wise women that they are.

We left at 8. We got to church an hour later. The trip normally takes 20 minutes. Needless to say, KC and I didn't pass out any paper people! Mostly the problem is that the roads just aren't plowed at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning. If we went to the 11 a.m. service I would have no issue getting there. But our service is at 9 so there you go.

As I inched along the barely plowed highway I had a litany of complaints and comments from my eldest. He handles his stress best by giving me more, (stress that is) usually as a result of constant chatter when I am trying to concentrate. I probably asked him 15 times to be quiet and listen to the radio and let me drive. He'd be quiet a minute or two and then pipe up again with some question of burning importance. "did the van have cruise control" Idiot that I am, I answer that yes it does. This engenders 15 more questions, starting with why am I not using it and going fromt there. Meanwhile I am wishing with all my heart and soul that I either a) had never left the house and/or my bed and b) if I had been compelled to do so, that I had taken the Metro so that I could at least be driving standard. I feel safer driving stick. Not so much braking when you can downshift. My car is standard, the van isn't. The van had gas. Mine didn't have much. Great planning Lee!

Still we made it there in one piece and all was good in the end. Rob's mentor chatted me up after church. He loves mentoring Rob and can see in Robbie the good things that I see in him. It is cool when others see the good in your kids. It doesn't bother him that Robbie is quiet and a young man of few words. What Rob says is from the heart and meaningful and that is all that matters to his mentor. That is so awesome.

And KC did well this week as well too. He was very proud of his contributions in class and couldn't wait to tell Kirsty all about it when we got home. Chet actually did well once we were there and has started to remember NOT to slam the church door open when he leaves. I've been working on that for 5 years now so man am I happy my diligence is starting to bear fruit! :-) With Chet, I have to have smaller goals. I honestly and sincerely have been working on this door thing for years. He likes to race up to the door, smash into the crash bar and wham the door open. I keep picturing some elderly person flying 1/2 across the parking lot as a result of the incredible force he feels compelled to use. Or the small child that becomes airborne and lands in the lake across the street. So every week I remind him. Sometimes I have to literally step in front of him and grab the door when I can tell he hasn't listened to me and processed the plan. But for a few weeks now, he has opened the door like anyone else in the world does. I don't know why it has taken years but if the seed has finally borne fruit, I am so very grateful.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm so happy!

Rob is participating in a coming of age class at our UU church. It is cool because it has a lot of fun components--retreats, 2 ropes course events, a canoe trip etc. But also time to reflect and process values. AND a chance to develop a close relationship with an adult in our congregation through a mentor relationship. Robbie has a cool mentor who is a good friend of mine as well which is a real plus.

One of the projects he has to do with his mentor is gather pictures that answer a series of questions that the leaders have come up with. Some recent questions were "where do i go when I feel introspective? where do i like to spend time? where can i really be myself? " There were others but you get the gist.

Now Rob I think is always afraid of having the wrong answer. As a result if asked a question he tends to freeze up, stare at you and after what seems like forever spits out an answer. You can ask "what is your favorite kind of ice cream" and not get an answer for 2 minutes! So when I was helping him decide what pictures he would need I was overjoyed when I asked the question of where he felt safe and he instantly said home! I wanted to dance around and hoot and holler. Instead, I had to act all calm and ask which pic of the house he liked better! LOL

Monday, January 12, 2009

On Mindless Television

I tend to watch mindless television. I watch TV while I am doing other things and thus I need TV that doesn't really require me to think. I am packing combs and taking care of kids during the few hours each night when the TV is on. Also, my spouse says I have very juvenile taste in TV. This may be because I don't usually have custody of the remote. Heck I can't even turn ON our TV without the assistance of a child! So of course my tastes run to the juvenile; that follows, right?

One of my favorite shows is 90210. It is a teen or maybe a tween show. I am reasonably sure that middle aged lesbians are not their target deomographics. But I love the cuts of music the show uses. I love the story lines. And I liked the original 90210 way back when. So there you go.

And this updated version has some timely and topical twists that apply to our family. In the new 90210, there is an adopted AA son named Dixon. The issues of having to explain his adoption all over again when the family relocates resonate with how my Rob doesn't really want to explain about his adoption right now.

In the most recent episode, Dixon is befriended by a black cheerleader at school and invited to her house to hear some great music performed by a bunch of black artists. Her dad is a studio exec or something, if I recall rightly. At any rate, Dixon's character is excited about being around other blacks. He explains to his white girlfriend that there was this whole segment of society in LA that he didn't even know existed. Timely to me also, as I want to make sure that my black kids are comfortable in black society as well as white society. And despite Obama being our President-elect, those are not really always the same societies. In my dreams maybe, not in real life.

And in another surprising twist for my 60 minutes of juvenile entertainment, the black cheerleader isn't even hitting on Dixon as one is led to believe. She is involved with a black female singer in the gospel group performing at her dad's event! OK the whole episode made my night!

If Robbie was a bit older, and a bit more mature, I'd actually watch the show with him. Sometimes things like that are good springboards for talking with my kids. Either watching a show, or reading a book together and then talking about it while i am doing the dishes and it all seems really off the cuff. (and so isn't!) But he isn't quite there yet, so I'll have to hope that I find the appropriate venue when he is!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snow Play

As expected, our church had to cancel the 9 a.m. service. Well not the service but the religious education components. My Rob's coming of age was cancelled, and all the programs for younger kids. That was a blessing as there was no way I was going to try and drive to church in this weather. It began snowing about 8:30 last night. KC was still awake and he and i watched the first flakes starting to drift down under the light of the street light. It snowed all night. It is still snowing. See a theme here! It isn't a rapidly accumulating storm, and it is the light, fluffy kind of snow, so it isn't hard to shovel either.

I offered to tow KC down to Dunkin Donuts for a bagel. He has one every Sunday morning, but he decided that he might not like that. So he opted for his usual cheerios, eaten in record time, and a promise of playing in the back yard. I had barely cleaned up the kitchen from breakfast (the rest of the troops had french toast) when he was standing there, tapping his little toes, 'wondering' if I was ready yet! So it was time for the long underwear etc and getting ready to go out.

I actually don't have a lot of cold weather wear myself. I tend to borrow Rob or Chet's pants. Rob's fit me better than Chets, which are really big on me. I do have some thermals of my own that I wear underneath. Someday I'll win the lottery and have under armour and be really warmer when we are out, but for now, this suffices. I wear Robbie's old boots too. He is in that "man child" phase of growth where a lot of his stuff also fits me. A year or so from now that will be gone and I'll either have to spring for getting my own, or save his castoffs from this year.

I got Lissa suited up as well. She hasn't had as much snow play as her brothers. KC started really young. Mostly because he has always been a tiny little thrill seeker. I remember holding him while sliding down our hill when he wasn't a year old and him chortling with glee. Lissa has been more wary about the whole deal, though I did take her out several times last year and pull her in the toddler sled. (it has a seat belt so she can't fall out). Today though, she knew she didn't want to be left out and suited up, even to the mittens which she detests and which I made clear were not negotiable.

One thing she can do at 2 is walk in the snow a lot better and easier than her big brother KC when he was that age. Maybe the difference in height but she doesn't get exhausted from the effort the way he did. When KC was 2 I spent a lot of time carrying, pulling and sliding but he didn't spend a lot of time walking because 1/2 way across our back yard he would get tired and fall down. Not Lissa! She marched all the way to the back of the yard to the swingset so she could slide into the puffy snow bank. She marched back across the yard and slid down the hill with me. She made snow bricks with our brick maker. She was busy and had a blast. After about 20 minutes her hands were cold so I brought her in to Kirsty who took off the zillions of layers and settled her for a nap.

The boys and I stayed out much longer, playing and trying out their snowshoes. KC is really getting the hang of the walking style you need for shoeing. I think by the end of this winter or the beginning of next year, he'll be ready for some short hikes with them. There is a wildlife sanctuary in our town where we can snow shoe. I'd like to take him there. Rob too. Rob is a more experienced snowshoer, having had his pair longer than KC has.

I am sort of cold despite having chugged down a cup of coffee when we got in, but it was still worth it. The opportunities we have to make memories with our children are as fleeting as a snowflake on a mitten by our pellet stove.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Last week at church my KC's class learned about a tradition within our faith called the flower communion. As part of this, every participant received a flower at the end of class. He chose a lovely yellow rose and it has somewhat amazingly stayed alive all week long on the altar in our kitchen. As I think on this further, I suspect there is a direct correlation here with how cold our house is!

However yellow roses for me always signify remembrance. I don't know if that is their "official" meaning. I know that all manner of meanings have been ascribed to a wide variety of flowers. It was a big thing in victorian times to send messages to a lover strictly by the choice of flowers in the bouquet. But this isn't necessarily official; it is just that yellow roses are remembering flowers for me.

And this month my mind is drawn often to my late mother in law. January was her birth month. She was a nurturer. From the first time I met her, she had a quiet way of making me feel not just at home, but at ease. There was a sense of belonging without expection, which is very different from the feelings in my home growing up. My life was full of expectations and while I don't think I really resented that,but I knew I loved the feeling of just "being" when I went to Kirsty's house. She was so talented with her hands. I don't think I ever saw a craft she hadn't tried and mastered. Crochet, knitting, cross stitch, needlepoint, ceramics, sewing. She did it all beautifully.And she liked sharing those skills, even with a teen who hadn't a whole lot of creative juices in her body. I remember her spending hours helping me learn to crochet.

She grew gardens like nobodies business. I swear she looked at a plant and it said "how high do you want me to grow?" Her gardens outside were always started from seed and were a blaze of beautiful color all season long. Inside, she had zillions of houseplants and they thrived. She still takes care of plants. Whatever we plant at her grave grows twice as large and strong as any of the same plants on the other graves we tend.

The thing I loved about her the most though was the fact that she loved my son unconditionally. Chet is a very different kind of person. He wasn't easy as a child. We thought his differences were just the result of deprivation in the orphanage; adjustments to a new world and a new family, and ill health. It wasn't till long after she died, that Chet's diagnosis of aspergers was revealed. But none of that mattered to her. While my father in law has always gotten visibly annoyed by Chet, my mother in law never did. She always saw through all the "stuff" to the essential goodness of his spirit. And he loved her fiercely in return.

She died far too young, claimed by cancer. If she had a failing, it was a long time addiction to cigarettes and they played a role in taking her from us. She never knew my other children, and I mourn that. I know what a gift her love would have been to them, and the joy she would have found in them. My Robbie loves to garden and she would have shared garden tips with him. KC is my artist and so many projects would have been made together. She would have loved Lissa's energies and excited explorations of her world.

There are times when I am doing something with the kids and I can swear that I feel her presence. Fleeting, it is like feeling a smile. That sounds dorky but I can't think of a better way to describe it. It is a paler version of the feeling I had when she was here, but it still feels good. And I'll bet she has some amazing gardens in the summerlands!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Thank the goddess for Fridays!

Predicatably, it was an exhuasting week at work! Having an amazing amount of time should have left me well rested and in some respects ready for the onslaught awaiting me. In other respects I was almost at a disadvantage by being rested. My rhythms were not the frenetic pace that my work days typically are and I felt like a record that should be 33 rpm (dating myself here as this is the CD age) being played at 45 rpm. By weeks end, I was more my "work self" sufficiently over caffienated that I was multitasking and getting boatloads of stuff done. But I miss the quieter rhythms. Thus, thank goddess for Fridays! Today at 4 I could breathe deeply, let go of the work pace a bit and re-group.

I braved the ice and took the dog for a walk. We admired the moon, riding high and nearly full in the cloudless sky. How it can be cloudless when yet more snow is supposed to be on its way, but for now, cloudless it is. I came home and tidied the kitchen and played with the kids and then took each of them out to see the moon once it was really darker out. KC is my true moon child. Kissed by the light of the full moon only weeks after his birth he has always gravitated toward the peaceful light of luna. Lissa is a sun child, of active sparkling energy but tonight she too was a bit awed by the beauty that is moon light in winter. "Oooooh cool!" she whispered, and as she was warmly wrapped, I know it was a comment on the sight and not the temperature.

Such moments are true blessings, memories I hold close to me when times are trying.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Calm before the storm

No emotional storms, we are expecting more winter weather. Not just snow, but more ice. Weird this icy phenomenon we are experiencing. If it was March I would sort of understand it. But it is uncommon in December and January in the Northeast. And most unwelcome. I imagine my eldest--the family environmental watchdog will scream that it is global warming. He could be right. Or it could be a weird weather pattern that will not be seen again for many years. At any rate, tonite the weather was still nice. Crisp and still. The sidewalks are finally safe to walk on at night again. The dog and I used to walk regularly after supper. Just 30 to 40 minutes. He is overweight and I thought it would be good for him. I know it is good for me as I like to exercise and the one downside I have to a large young family is no time to work out. But after the storm on December 12th it was not safe to walk. So many downed limbs and lines, some active. It took weeks for the clean up to really be done. And we had a snow storm in there as well so some lines got buried and that was a bit scary for those walking.

So tonight was the first time in weeks that I have felt safe in sashaying out into the night with the dog. And it was beautiful. I like to walk fast and always come back feeling cleansed, like I have left the stress of the day behind me. It isn't the adrenaline rush I get from a work out, or from sessions at the dojo, but it is good. I don't think the pooch gets any rush from walking though. For a field dog, he is the most laid back (another word might be boring) fellow I have ever met!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fingerless Gloves

OK this may not be of interest to anyone who doesn't have chronically cold hands, but I have received the coolest of cool things--well actually that should be the warmest of warm things! Kirsty knit me a set of fingerless gloves while she was at work on Saturday. They really help a lot with my hands being so cold. They stiffen over the course of the day. I can tell that these help my hands because even when my hands feel a little cold now, they have some color to them. Usually they have this really pale marble looking effect. It is a result of my reynauds. I always worry about touching the kids in the cold weather because my hands are usually so dang cold. I tend to run hot water over them before changing a diaper or rubbing lotion on a child. And I run the risk of burning myself when I do that, because I can't feel the warmth.

So the long and short of it is, these glovies help so much and I am so incredibly thankful for them. I look a bit like someone from the cast of Les Mis but that is okay with me!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Return to the real world!

Ah ,the end of vacation looms on my horizon. Tomorrow I will rise at my usual 5:45 a.m. (I've been sleeping till nearly 7 a.m.!) and the work week will begin. I am lucky. I work only 3 miles from home (though pathetically enough it can sometimes take 12 minutes of drive time) so my mornings are more leisurely than folks who deal with much longer commutes. My wife and I have 15 minutes of time just for us with tea and toast. Then I email my mom who if she doesn't hear from me twice a day thinks a giant sinkhole has formed underneath our home and sucked us down into who knows where. Seriously, she gets weird about it. Kirsty used to think I was exaggerating when I said I had to email her twice a day at her prescribed times or she wigged out. I skippped one morning just to prove my point. She called the house while I was at work to see what was wrong! Kirsty hasn't complained since! (laughing)

Then the kids will get up and it will be breakfasts and Rob's homeschooling. I do two classes with him and then I leave for work. Sort of simultaneously while I am teaching, I am doing breakfast dishes and making my lunch and Chet's. If one doesn't make lunch for Chet he doesn't eat. Then he passes out from low blood sugar. It is all part of the autism and not being able to hear his body signals.

I have had such a truly wonderful vacation. I have been off of work since 1 p.m. on December 24th. That is a long stretch and also only uses 3 actual vacation days because of the way our company did the holidays this year. More typically I take a lot of 3 days weekends which allow us a lot of fun a family but which don't really allow the decompression time that this longer spell away from the office has given me. The last time I was away this long was 2 years ago when we went to Chicago to bring home Elisabeth. While that was exciting and wonderful, restful wouldn't be part of that description!

I know January is going to be stressful at work. We are having an inspection the 21st of January that usually happens in March. There are files to get ready and many many reports to create for this. One would think I would be ready for the task having had so much down time.

And I suppose I am. I know I will be when I walk through the door tomorrow. But right now I don't feel ready to be done with vacation. With so much time with the kids. Crafts and games and walks and time to just be. It has been a blessing.

We have also been lucky in that the factory that we do piece work for has closed early both these weeks due to the holidays as well. So I have been having evenings with no work as well. That very rarely happens. Once the kids are in bed I am usually packing product for the factory. The advantage to that job is that Kirsty and I can be together. One or both of us are available to the kids all the time--I typically have many breaks for story times, bath times etc. That wouldn't be an option if I had a regular part time job. But it has been nice to pretend for a few days that I didn't have to do that. Obviously it wouldn't be cool if this hiatus of the second job lasted long. But to have the gift of time to scrapbook for all the kid's books. To read an adult book for pleasure. (House Rules by Mike Lawson) To curl up on the couch and watch the football game with the boys in HD. Yup, we have an HD TV in our living room and I almost never watch anything on it. If I see tv it is in the work room when we are packing combs. Football in HD is really cool! It has all just been so neat. I didn't go anywhere, except up to Maine for a day to bring gifts to my mom, but I feel like I've had more fun than almost any vacation I could envision. The only other contenders involve scaling a few 5000 foot mountains but I need Lissa to be a bit bigger before we get back to that!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Adding a picture of me

When I started this blog I didn't choose an avatar. I am not one for those comic strip looks. I personally loathe comics, though I have children that adore them. Anyway, for unknown reasons I find them so banal that I figured a shadow in the box that was "me" was better than a goofy comic. Because I didn't have a "good" picture of me.

My mom inculcated in me at a very early age that I was the "smart" one and my sister was the "pretty" one. All my growing up years she had my sisters pictures prominently displayed. My senior year photo she chose the one long range shot from the proofs. "at least you are farther back in this one dear, " was her comment. So I grew up rather secure in my ability to think my way out of a paper bag, rather unsure about things like make up (should I bother if I was really ugly?) and whether or not I wanted to try to be more attractive or alluring than I was. Most young girls could talk to their mom about such questions. I couldn't.

As a young adult I learned that though I might be smart, I was also relatively attractive. Dogs didn't bark when I walked down the street and people of both sexes seemed comfortable in my presence. In many respects, I think I was much luckier in the labelling than my sister, who still struggles with the "pretty but dumb" label that my mom saddled her with.

The one scar it did leave me with is an absolute loathing of having my picture taken. And predictably, because it is something I don't feel comfortable doing, the vast majority of the pictures of me really aren't very good. Some catch me in mid word or mid bite, leaving my face distorted. (My eldest son kindly mentioned once that it looked like I had suffered a stroke!) The best pictures are usually ones where I am doing something and not thinking about the camera being present. Pictures of me hiking or at the beach are usually pretty decent. Yet this past week, the picture I added was taken and it is really a decent shot. Again, I didn't notice when it was being taken which is probably why. But the amazing part of it is that it was taken by KC. Yup, my 4 year old. He started messing with our digital camera at Robbie's baseball games this summer and really developed some skills. I made the mistake of getting him a kids camera for Christmas. He liked it for about 10 minutes. Then he said sissy could have this and could he use ours!

Friday, January 2, 2009

On the kindness of iinsurance adjusters

The ice storm of December 12th damaged our beautiful birch irreparabley. The three crowns of branches at the top were all broken and while they have not yet fallen it is clear that the tree needs to be removed. It occured to me that this must be why people have homeowners insurance and that we should call our adjuster. Which we did and promptly received a call back. Did we have fallen limbs, he asked. Well yes, I said but we had all ready long since cleared that type of debris. Hmmmm. I hear murmers at the other end of the phone line. The problem, he explained to me, is that tree trimming and removal is considered normal maintenance, even though the birch in questions was healthy and only required attention due to the damage sustained in the storm.

Ah, I say. Not being particularly assertive in such matters, I continued on to the effect that well, it didn't hurt us to inquire and we just thought since we had not had a claim in 25 years that perhaps help might have been forthcoming.

Now it is the adjusters turn to say "ah.". He reminds me that i have a $500 deductable on the policy. I said that I knew this but that I had hoped I would get a couple hundred dollars as last time I took down a tree is was about $700.00 A moments silence on the line. Did we lose power during the storm, wonders the adjuster.

Oh yes, I said, for 30 hours. In a happier tone he asks if perhaps we lost any food due to the power failure. Well no, I explained as our house was so cold that our milk and soy milk stayed fine on the counter. And since we are vegetarians there were no meats to worry about. No hard feelings, I continued, I just thought we would see what was available.

You know, the adjuster went on, I really want to help you. How about if I issue a check for $200 and call it funds for downed limbs even though you all ready took care of that? This conversationi was the day before yesterday; the check arrived today.

It isn't a lot of money, but it is really cool that they paid anything at all when it is clear that they didn't have to. And it will help with the dismantling (sob) of our beloved birch tree.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I wish for all of us the wisdom to savor life, to engage in our experiences richly, strength to meet the inevitable challenges, and friendships to share the journey.

It was a lovely low key New Years Day here. The kids slept till nearly 7 a.m. You have no idea how LATE that is in our house! LOL After a hearty breakfast, I played with them for a while. I am relishing my time off and the increased family time. I updated my subjects in Robbie's plan book so that when we resume homeschooling after the holidays my end of things is up to date. After lunch, buoyed by my bookkeeping success in the homeschooling arena I ventured into the lair where I do the financial bookkeeping. This is a cold little alleyway off the kitchen (old houses are often oddly configured. In our house this is especially true since it was built before indoor plumbing and electricity) Anyway in this freezing little nook is my ancient imac and the detritis of a years worth of bill paying. I shredded all the things that needed shredding, filed all the things that needed filing and set up the new files for 2009. To say I feel virtuous is the greatest understatement in the world!

Celebrated all that responsible adult behavior with helping the kids make scratch art snowflakes to hang from our dining room chandelier. Rob and KC are really good at these (they were actually left over from decorations we did for solstice last year) and this year Lissa could bring the finished ones to me so that I could hang them. They look amazing, and dangle nicely adding a bit of festivity now that all the Yule decorations are put away.

For supper, KC Lissa and Rob wanted to make pizza so the kiddos had that while K and I had more lentil soup. (though we jazzed it up. Last night we made it from the classic italian recipe we found on line. It was um, bland springs readily to mind! ) I almost don't know what to do with my free time. We don't have any piece work right now. Usually I have 4 hours of that to do at night. KC has fallen asleep the past couple nights at a normal time and i have had time to actually read a book that had chapters. An adult book! LOL I hesitate to get too excited. Last time that happened I got within 40 pages of the end and his sleep cycle changed and my reading window disappeared. I tried to renew the book at the library and someone else had it on reserve so i had to return it with the last 40 pages unread.

So now, shall I dare to hope that I can read again tonight???? Hmmmm, we will see what the first night of the new year holds!