Saturday, December 20, 2008

And It Came.

It was not the twelve inches the kids had hoped for but we can work with this six to eight. And the good news is, we should be getting another four to six on top of this by tomorrow morning. I have an igloo in my backyard and the sledding/snowboarding ramp is in top form.

Finally, finally it is feeling like winter around here.

Friday, December 19, 2008


This is one of those days when I think of people who live in warm states. Sure, it's nice to wear light jackets in December and have flowers in your flowerbed year round, but they never get to experience days like today.

We have BIG snow headed our way.

Out my window right now I see a driveway dusted with snow. Our neighborhood is still recovering from the huge ice storm that ripped through a week ago. Friends around the corner just got their power back yesterday. But we all did okay. We banded together and helped each other out. Those with electricity shared with those who had none. And it was a great excuse to check up on each other.

The ice has melted and just a few ice ravaged tree branches are left behind. Piles of twigs and branches are stacked at the end of each driveway, like we are all gearing up for some big magical bon fire. Bigger limbs still clutter many yards (including ours) because it has been too cold to hack away at them with our chainsaws.

The picture above is what a fifteen year old who loves winter can do with just an inch or two of snow. Scraped off our long driveway and hauled to his sledding hill, he was able to get a few good runs in on his snowboard before the bus came yesterday.

By tonight he will be rejoicing.

See, what we get to experience that is foreign to our southern state neighbors is the thrill of the anticipated storm. If our forecasters are right and Al Roker isn't lying, we are due to get slammed with a huge snowstorm by the time we start dinner. The kids will come home at lunchtime, even before the storm hits, in anticipation of this rocking storm. There is so much excitement in the air even the dog is a bit skittish this morning.

Sure, down South they get hurricanes, but blizzards are much more fun. For one thing we don't worry much about our storms flattening our houses and washing them out to sea. We get a few days warning, so we can join all our neighbors at the grocery store, stocking up on canned chili, milk and bread. Then we get to sit back and watch. It is gorgeous as it comes down (as opposed to a hurricane, which I have not seen but imagine to be not so entertaining). Then once we are blanketed in we get to hunker down and enjoy each other.

Board games are brought out. Candles are lit. Books are shared as we snuggle on the couch together. We might even get to watch of a few of the movies I've checked out from the library. It's all good.

For the past three days we've known this one was coming. The kids have chattered about it at school "Did you hear? We're going to get THREE feet!" (teen age exaggeration) and library patrons at work brought it up over and over again while I checked books out to them. "Hope we don't lose power again!" We all pretend its a bad thing, that we are just not ready for another big storm, but down deep its exciting.

It's like a mini planned vacation, ordered by God. "Hey you, down there on Earth, stay home and enjoy each other for a few days!"

I'm ready. Chili is stocked. Milk's in the fridge. Bring it on. It's time for some good ole' winter fun. And a good old fashioned blizzard.

Snow Cone

Now a flash back to an essay from the archives....

Sam Had a Snowcone for Breakfast

After a long day of not feeling well four year old Sam was hitting his wall. I knew it, his big brothers and sister knew it, but Sam himself didn't quite know it yet. As the late afternoon wore on, my boy who was on the last days of a bad cold, came to me over and over, wanting comfort. I soothed his latest wound, most of them emotional, as he tried repeatedly to keep playing while his body was trying to tell him it was time to quit. The smallest rift with brothers sent him into cascades of tears. Even a kind look from big sister made his body break into sobs. So he kept returning to my lap and I kept thinking he would fall asleep while we rocked. But each time he found some inner reservoir of energy and decided he wanted to play just a bit longer.

Finally I knew it was time to step in and insist that the night be brought to a close. I was tired and daddy was working late to prepare for our big trip to the East coast in two weeks. My days were full of packing and making arrangements, so by six o'clock I was hitting my own weary wall. And Sam just needed to let go and call it a day. As we were getting our last drink of milk from the fridge Sam saw it...the syrup for making snow cones. They were a frequent treat in the summer months but when autumn rolled around the snow cone machine was tucked into a back cabinet and the syrups were stored in the fridge. The idea delighted Sam. He asked, "Mom, can me have a 'no cone?"

I had to say no. It was the right thing to do. I have no doubt that if he were an only child I would have said yes in a heartbeat. But the big kids were constantly complaining that I treated the baby of the family with favor and I knew they were right. It was late, the snow cone machine was packed away, and it was time for bed. Not time for snow cones. But my boy felt deeply in his soul that he NEEDED a snow cone. Once I said no I had to stick to it. Much weeping and wailing followed but I held my ground.

I rocked him a bit more, then we lay on the bed together, watching Sponge Bob. About every two minutes he would roll over to look at me with big sad eyes and say, "Mommy....PEEZE can me have a 'no cone?" Of course I would have to answer a quiet "No, maybe tomorrow", which was followed by a minute of tired, quiet sobs from his side of the pillow.

Finally, finally, he fell into a much needed sleep.

Then I was sitting at the computer this morning, checking my email before the kids got up, and a squinty eyed pre-schooler opened the door to the office. Before his eyes even adjusted to the light, in a tiny voice, he said, "Mommy, can me have a 'no cone NOW?"

The email could wait, my boy had waited long enough. We searched the cabinets, behind the waffle maker and the extra coffee pot, and we found the snow cone maker. We quickly set it up, filled it with fresh ice, and were cranking away with first morning energy.

Suddenly all that had been so wrong in his four year old world last night was all better. The magic elixir of snow cone juice healed all. Very few times in life can such big problems be solved with such simple solutions. It was a new day and time for a fresh start.

And that is why Sam had a snow cone for breakfast.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Our Fault

Yes, we did ask for more winter weather. With the dusting of snow we got a few weeks ago, the boys got the itch for real snow fun and started doing the daily snowstorm dance.

I am not naive. I know we don't have the greatest dance moves, but Come On. Did we do the snow dance so out of whack that we got this horrendous ice storm instead?

Up front I want to apologize to the whole upstate New York area. It is our fault. We swayed the hips and waved the hands in the air in some kind of twisted version of the sacred dance and we called forth this mess.

It's a beautiful mess, don't get me wrong. There is little to compare to the magical ice coating on each tiny limb and branch of every tree in our yard and woods. The sun shines through it like we live in a fairy land. You can stand outside and hear the crackling chorus as the wind sways branches and plays a tune.

As the temperatures warmed a few degrees it made standing under said trees a bit dangerous. Middle Boy decided to play it safe and wear his ski helmet. Not a bad plan. He was surrounded by chunks of ice that had shattered around his feet, making our driveway look like it was covered in broken glass.

Obviously our sitting in lawn chairs days are over for now. It's time to break out the sleds. It's time to make snow men. If we could just find a way to get rid of this coating of ice and start over. We are humble enough to admit we messed up. The dance we thought was the one that brought snow just made fools of us.

For now all dancing has been called off and we are changing our game plan. Maybe its time to call in the big guns. We're leaving Santa an extra big pile of cookies and a note: "Please leave the presents under the tree and six to twelve inches of snow in the front yard."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fisher Price Christmas

It was all much easier when the Fisher Price Farm was the only toy in my cart.

It sat right next to the jumbo box of disposable diapers and a two pound bag of animal crackers. Perched in the front passenger seat was a toddler who periodically clapped his hands and goo-ed at his sister. Having been bumped out of the seat by a brother who arrived just after her first birthday, she soon discovered it was much more fun to walk next to us, wrapping her tiny fingers through the slick metal bars of the cart basket because mommy said if she didn’t a stranger might take her away.

They were easy. It was physically exhausting to care for their constant daily needs, but in some ways life was much easier. A Barney video effortlessly bought me a half hour of quiet. I knew where they were and exactly what they were doing for as long as the dinosaur’s friends bopped and danced through their pretend neighborhood set.

I could fit most of their dirty clothes in one big load. Weekly laundry was a breeze. Little clothes are quick to wash and even quicker to fold. Nothing needed ironing and on most days these two little buddies of mine were more than thrilled to help tuck it all away in dresser drawers.

They strategically and loyally napped at the same time every day and we all met up again in the late afternoon, refreshed and ready for the next adventure the day might bring.

And then came the holidays. Money was tight but they never knew it. Most of the treasures under the Christmas tree were bright colored toys that had been scrubbed of their $1 and $2 price tags. Garage sales and thrift stores seemed to overflow with perfectly good preschooler toys.

Every year we bought one item from the department store. One brand new toy that two little people could share. Most years it was a set from the Fisher Price people village. A farm joined our family one year, a schoolhouse the next. Slowly our collection grew and soon we realized we owned the whole neighborhood. Twenty bucks at a time our little town grew.

Then time flashed by and our household expanded by two more boys. The second two seemed to leave their preschool years behind them at a much faster rate than their older siblings had. We barely got out FisherPriceville anymore. New shiny hot wheels and forts their big brother made out of bed sheets were much more exotic and exciting. Barney grew dusty in the VCR and was eventually given to the new mommy next door.

And Christmas became much more expensive. Twenty dollar sets of round plastic people didn’t cut it anymore. Now each item on Santa’s list averaged forty, then sixty dollars. All the new gadgets being flashed across Nick Jr. and the Disney Channel were electronic and expensive.

Suddenly it was a long term commitment. You buy the unit then realize it’s not enough. There are chargers and screen guards and earplugs and upgrades to buy, not to mention the endless stream of new game cartridges that are all sold separately. Now the average price for one item often topped a hundred dollars. In our house that was multiplied by four different lists.

Our budget did not expand as dramatically as our (once little) family so every year we still give the speech about how money is tight. Now they are old enough to understand what that means. Lists are reviewed and prioritized while alliances are made to share any and all new gaming systems and cartridges that might make their appearance under the tree.

As heartbreaking as it is for a mother who wants to wrap pretty presents, several of my older kids are now requesting the cash instead of the gifts. They like having the control to pick for themselves and not waste limited Christmas bucks on some item they really never wanted.

Jeff and I walk the aisles, hands clutching four carefully constructed lists from four very different kids. We have round and round discussions about where the money could best be spent. With each passing year we browse in and out of the electronics section a bit more than the toy section. Very soon we will have no reason to even steer the cart over to the brightly colored displays of teddy bears, Tinker Toys and building blocks.

But this year, as we glide down the aisle of pretend toys, I will brush my hand along the smooth surface of the Fisher Price village and try not to shed a tear. It just doesn’t seem right that my favorite little round people are moving on and finding love in a new little preschooler’s chubby fist.

High Tech Help

I look at the clock and notice it is 5:38 p.m. I look at the empty stove and realize dinner will be late again.

In the distance I hear explosive sounds coming from the family room. My teenage son and his friends are bonding over the latest video game, becoming specially trained military men with the click of a button on their vibrating controllers. A teenage girl who looks a lot like me walks through the kitchen with a tiny gray phone pressed to her ear, lost in conversation with her latest best friend. Tucked in a corner of the dining room my eight year old points and clicks away on the family computer. Surrounded by this new world of high tech possibilities I have not been left behind. As I scurry out to the car to bring in the last load of groceries, my shiny metal foot bounces back with each step, providing an energy return feature that powers my day.

I have been blessed with technology not just in my ability to keep in touch with overseas relatives vie instant email, but by the new advancements in artificial limbs. It is one of the reasons I chose to become an amputee in the first place.

Yes, I chose this life. Five years ago I got mad. After living with a deformed foot that only seemed to deteriorate more with each passing year, I began a research campaign. I interviewed orthopedic doctors and scoured amputee websites. I visited prosthetists and held plastic feet and legs in my hands, inspecting them to see exactly how much potential they might hold. I read books and articles about the new advancements that were being made in this world of plastic and metal limbs. And I liked what I found.

It became very clear to me that the active amputee in this new millennium was living a much better life than I had been stuck with. I had never been able to walk well and hadn’t been able to run since I was a seven year old. A simple trip to do weekly grocery shopping could wear me out. In my research I found metal feet that bounced back with each step. It became apparent that I could finally have two good, participating feet when I walked.

We are in a new age. Cell phones and computer equipped cars are not the only life changing advancements out there. For the first time in history it’s possible for a metal limb to trump flesh and bone. And the advancements are not just for the super athletes and the mountain climbers. They are also for me.

I don’t need to run a marathon today, I just need to be able to shop the whole grocery store and still have energy left when I get home to make dinner, help with homework, and maybe throw in a few loads of laundry.

The only mountain I will climb today will be the pile of clothes that threatens to take over the floor of my daughter’s room. But with my new high tech leg I have no fear. I know I can get that pile down the stairs and tucked away in the laundry room with plenty of time left to meet my second grader at the kitchen table for a practice spelling test.

You can have your fancy new iphone and your realistic video games. My vote for best new high tech gear is the one I snap on every morning, just below my knee. It has given me an active life I thought was out of reach.

Screeching Halt

Well, here is the answer to "What ever happened to taking another round of Christmas pictures?" One lethargic eight year old, burning up with fever. Joined just hours later by his 12 year old brother, also burning up with fever.

This was on Monday.

They are still burning up with fever and it is now Wednesday night. It just might be time to go see the doctor tomorrow.

Tonight as I put Sam in a cool bath to try to coax down his 103.9 fever, he eased into the water with a long "Ahhhhhh". We washed his hair and slowly got him back onto dry land. His fever was a few degrees cooler and the bath water had gotten a few degrees warmer. (at least that's what I told him, and I kind of believe it too...)

So not only is our next attempt at a Christmas picture on hold until this thing passes, this just happens to be the week that my article in the parenting column of the paper was about how sometimes I feel like a negligent mom, not rushing my kids to the doctor with every little sniffle.

Guess we'll be seeing Dr. Karen tomorrow. It's been a whole six days since we've seen her. I'm sure she misses us.

Flash Forward one week: We did go see Dr. Karen. And by the time we schlepped back out of her office we had five diagnosis.

Both boys had the flu that brings high fevers. Both boys had strep throat. And on top of all of that, Baby Boy also had pneumonia. He was such a mess that he was subjected to a huge shot of antibiotics in the butt before we left the office. I had never seen that done before. One huge dose, all at once, to jump start his healing. It is a long, painful process and feels twice as bad when you feel pretty crappy to start with. My boys got extra hugs that day. It is hard to watch debilitating illness when you're the mom.

It was the morning that I realized Christmas cards would not be mailed out on time and Christmas cookies might not get baked. We'd be lucky to get a bare bones holiday pulled off. But after a week home from school everyone got better and by the time Santa came there were smiles all around.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Picture - take one

Okay, so I thought it would be easier when they were older. I was wrong.

Maybe we'll try again tonight, when Middle Boy at least has a clean shirt on and Baby Boy is wearing something besides pajama pants.

Or maybe we'll just send out one of these for our Christmas picture. After all, it's who we truly are.

"Cool Shoes!"

When they were four and five they shared things with each other.

"Boo, look at the sucker I got at the bank with mom!"

"Bubby, look at this cool sticker I got at the doctor's office."

The older they got, the less they seemed to share the little things in life. Their gender difference, such a non issue in the preschool years, slowly caused a small gap in their interests. Then a bigger gap as he could often be found rolling his eyes and saying, "What's up with her?"

So it brought me great joy to catch this moment on film. In the middle of a crazy night when the house was full of friends, he came in with his brand new pair of track shoes. To get these shoes we took him to a special track store that analyzes your gait and recommends specific styles of running shoes.

He was more than excited and even took them for a quick run around the neighborhood on nighttime streets that were pitch black.

She seemed definately interested, without coaching from me, when he came in the door with his new treasures. And for a split second I could see them as five year olds again. Sharing the important life stuff with each other.

It hardly even mattered that the prized possession cost a lot more money than the free stickers we used to get at the doctor's office and the free suckers we got at the bank.

My First Angel

He woke up earlier than all the other kids. He happened to look out the window and almost screamed about what he saw. Snow. Finallyfinallyfinally snow! It was a dusting but it was coming down hard.

He dug through the snow gear closet on his own and within a half an hour he was fully suited up. He couldn't wait to run in the yard with the dog, making first prints. He couldn't wait to see if the sledding hill was ready to go. But first things first.

The first thing he did was lay his little body on the driveway outside my office window. Moving excited arms and legs up and down he made his mark.

Because his first priority on this first snow morning of the year was showing his love for Mama. He wanted me to have a snow angel to look at while I worked on the computer.

My angel with his gift angel. Does life get any better than this?

When You Love Snow

My kids have been desperate for snow this year. We usually have some accumulation by now and it has just not come. We had a teasing heavy flurry in October but nothing stuck. If there were a Native American Snow Dance we would be doing it every morning.

So finally, finally, when the snow started to fall, then stick some, on Sunday morning, my kids rejoiced. Baby boy was the first out the door, dressed from head to toe in gear. The big kids and friends followed soon after.

At one point I looked out my office window to see the above scene. This is snow they have scraped off the neighbor's driveway and are hauling over to our small sledding hill. They were determined to sled and snowboard before the day was over.
Leave it to persistent boys, they did it. By mid morning they were snow boarding. And had even created a small jump.
Over and over they went down our little hill. It was enough for today but I'm afraid it only gave them a taste of what they really crave. Bring on the two foot snowstorm. We've had our 'first snow of the year' drill and we have succeeded. We have shovels, and hills and wheelbarrows.

We are ready.

Friday, December 5, 2008

So Sweet

Way back when I had preschoolers I worried. I love the little people. I wondered what it would be like to have bigger kids. I was terrified of what it would be like to have teens.

But time went by and all of the sudden we had teens in our house. And they weren't scary. They were people that I had grown to love over more than a decade of living with them. Their independence was liberating, for them and for me.

Now we have a house full of not only teens, but many teen friends. And it's not scary at all. It's actually pretty fun.

A week ago I announced that Friday night would be Game Night, for anyone who was interested. Two showed up, which gave us six kids total. Then another friend just happened to stop by and loved the idea of Monopoly, so he stayed. Then our old neighbor from next door, who has moved to CT, showed up for a visit. So he pulled up a chair too.

And suddenly we had a full fledged game night. And it was great.

Their noise is great. Their sense of humor is great. It was fun to watch so many different personalities navigate the two board games we pulled out. I stopped playing halfway through only because I gave up my spot to the last kid who showed up. But I'm okay with that.

I'm not a competitive person anyway. I am mainly, deep in my soul, a mom. A mom who treasures seeing a table full of kids I love having so much fun together.

It was cold and bitter outside on that December Friday night in New York. But around my dining room table there was warmth. Laughter and teasing and brownies and fun.

And it was so so sweet. And not scary at all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On a Thursday

On a Thursday evening Baby Boy forgot the rule about no running in the house and when the rocking chair reached out to trip him, he caught his fall with his forehead. The bookshelf next to it is made of very hard wood.

It is our fifth set of stitches in little boys and by far the deepest. He must have nicked an artery because there was a fountain of blood spraying all over our nice tan carpet.

A few hours later he got his pretty quilting job done by a very kid friendly doc. An even ten stitches to make the story easy to remember when telling to giggly cute teenage girls some day.

On a Saturday he covered the railroad tracks on his forehead with a nice big band aid and celebrated his birthday with five rambunctious friends. It was pure good luck that prevented any other trips to the ER as the cyclones made their way through the house.

On a Thursday our favorite family doc patiently and carefully clipped and pulled those sacred stitches out of his head. He was just about as nervous about the coming out part as he was the going in part. He hummed his favorite lullaby to himself (his idea) for distraction and comfort. It made me smile.

On that same Thursday as we walked through Wal-Mart buying groceries, he felt like everyone in the world was staring at his new scar. Just to prove to him it was no big deal I took a picture with my digital camera and showed him what he looked like in the viewfinder. One of the benefits to being a mom who always has a camera in her pocket.

Another medical crisis survived and documented. The camera is fully charged again. I wonder who's next....

Holiday Birthday

The beauty of being born very close to Halloween...

opening birthday cards full of money while wearing a cool Storm Trooper outfit.

Then going outside to sit next to the creepy guy scarecrow and scare little neighbor kids half to death.

What more could a little boy want for a birthday?

Big Girl Time

For the fourth time since we moved to New York we made the trip down to the City early in the morning and sat in the Regis and Kelly audience. It's always a fun experience but this time was extra special because it was just my girl and me.

We always seem to have the pack of boys with us when we hit the City and shopping is never on the list. Sometimes we can buy a little time if we send them off to the Times Square Toys R Us or the Hershey store but it never seems to be long enough.

This trip was all about my girl and me. We had fun laughing with our friends Reege and Kelly and then headed out to hit the City. We'd always heard about Canal Street Shopping so we drove south into China town to see what it was all about.

She found her new favorite store and I got to enjoy a long afternoon with my daughter, poking around some pretty fun places and making a whole lot of new fun memories.

Even the drive home was a treat. Nothing but time, un-distracted, for just over two hours. I know these days will become even more rare as she makes plans for college and her own big girl life.

So I cling to these moments and kindly ignore the curse word in the name of her favorite store.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Even though we had celebrated with the relatives from NH, who had visited over the weekend, we still had to have an official cake on his 'real' eighth birthday. It was after dinner, took no more than a few minutes. Sing the song, blow out the big Number Eight candle. Open a few presents. Take the picture. It's officially a birthday celebration.

We even threw in a neighbor boy to the mix, just to spice things up a bit.

But when I finally uploaded the picture I noticed something. It is something that missed my attention on the day of, but was so evident in the photograph, three days later.

Each of my kids has a shirt on that represents a different part of the country that matters to us.

Daughter has the University of Albany, representing our nearest big city.

Big Boy has on his favorite "Altaholics" shirt, reminding him of the perfect snow we found every weekend when we lived in Utah and skied at Alta.

Middle Boy proudly wears his New York Giants/New England Patriots Super Bowl shirt, representing when our new 'home' team played the team all the relatives in NH (including Hubby) rooted for on that big day last February.

And Baby Boy brings us all back to the beginning. All four children were born in Missouri. Two at the University of Missouri Hospital and two a few hours south of there, in Springfield. The Mizzou sweatshirt is a handmedown from MU alumni relatives in Dallas who still call Mizzou their home team.

I have no idea what neighbor boy is wearing. Maybe next time I'll throw a hat from D.C. or a sweatshirt from NH his way. I'd hate to make him feel so left out again.
This is what it looks like to be eight years old and have a smile as big as your new friend, the pay-to-view binoculars at the rest stop look out point.

And this is what it looks like to be eight years old and still believe that fifteen year old big brothers can do just about anything short of moving mountains.

(notice how he even holds his bottom lip in his teeth like his role model)

Joy to a mommy's heart.

Treasured Day

It is rare when you have four children, who range in age from eight to almost seventeen, to find any activity that they all enjoy. But we sure hit the jackpot on this day.

The day after Big Boy's cross country race we explored some new spots in NYC. I wanted desperately to see the famous Waterfalls that were scheduled to be turned off and shut down after that weekend. We saw them. Many of them. But those were just snapshots. The real fun of the day came in the activities.

Because everyone says you must do it at least once in your life, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge. It was pretty cool. It was crowded, and I look forward to returning on a day with not so many strollers and tourists but it was definately worth the hike. Except for the poor clueless guy in the background I got a pretty amazing shot of my whole gang without one smile between them. I promise, they were having a good time.

Then came this newfound treasure. It is called Governors Island and I had read about it many times in my copies of New York Magazine. But we finally tried it out for ourselves.

It was a blast. For not much dough you can rent bikes - single, tandem, and this crazy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang version. We just had to sample a bit of each. We took turns on the tandem, just to see what it was like, but the real hit was the bike built for four.

Did I mention it has no brakes? Well, it does have brakes. They are called "your feet". Much like the Flintstones car braking system. So it is important to remember this when picking your driver. Soon to be turning sixteen year old boys who love speed are not necessarily your best bet.

It made for a lot of laughs and a lot of fun new family memories. We saw a new view of Lady Liberty and a new view of how much fun our family can still have, even with the crazy age gaps we have.

The pictures of that day are great. But the memories are even sweeter. Riding home on the long highway that night, Hubby and I had that sweet contentment you rarely get when you've just spent a full two days away from home with four children.

It all went well. They all had fun. They all seem to love each other after all, at least for these two days they did.

We soaked it all in, made plans for our next trip down to the City, and hoped like heck we could catch that magic in a bottle just one more time.

Proud to Be

Election Day 2008. An historic day for our country and an exciting day for one said eight year old.

He was just two weeks old the first time he went with us to vote for a president. Hubby and I took turns rocking his baby carrier so he would not disturb the many other people who stood in line to cast their votes, in another historic election.

Then he was just barely a four year old as he followed us again into a voting booth. It was once again time to pick a leader and he got to be a part of the process.

This time around he had just turned eight. His second grade teacher encouraged all her students to go vote with their parents, even if it meant missing some school time.

So he got to sit between mom and dad at Dunkin Donuts, instead of catching his school bus. After an invigorating donut and a chocolate milk, we headed to the polls. The election officials allowed him to go behind the curtain with each of us individually then winked at him as he walked away. "Don't tell anyone you got to vote twice!" they said.

He grinned and grabbed daddy's hand.

It will most likely be the first election he will keep in his memory. If not for the fact he was the only citizen who got more than one vote, then definately for the joy of being an only child in the middle of Dunkin Donuts when everyone else is at school.

What Money Can't Buy

Every time we go down to NYC I try to go to the site of the World Trade Center Towers. It is such a significant part of history, that all my children were alive to experience. The problem is, only two are old enough to remember it.

Middle Boy and Baby Boy were five and one, just under the age of memory, even for an event as large as September 11th. Every year we commemorate. We talk about it and why it matters.

On the first anniversary we lived in Washington D.C. and our gang made a free lemonade stand for commuters coming off the metro train that stopped by our house. Even though our sign said, "In Honor of our Fallen Heroes, this refreshing drink is FREE", many people wanted to give. It felt wrong to be getting something for nothing, on September 11th. It frustrated my children but demonstrated so clearly how much we were still hurting as a country.

On the move out to Washington D.C. we stopped by the field in Pennsylvania and left a few of their favorite beanie babies on the small chain length fence that served as a temporary memorial for the flight that crashed in that field. It was a child's way of saying thank you for the sacrifices that were made for our country.

During our stay in D.C. we watched the Pentagon slowly become a sturdy unit again, its gaping hole patched and its own memorials built.

But time moved on and the memorials and celebrations were not as big and loud. Still I never wanted my children to forget.

So now that we live closer to the biggest marker of that day I try to keep it fresh in their minds. I want them to grow up aware of the tragedy and aware of how a country unifies and rebuilds.

I worry that they tire of my speeches. I check out library books and tell them first hand stories about where all their loved ones were on that day. I want it to be real to them. But I always feel like I am falling short.

So this time, a few weeks ago, when we went down to the City again, we made the trek again. Some things are the same, but some things are changing. I was pleased that they remembered enough from our last trip to notice the changes. I tried to refrain from my default speech about sacrifice and courage. I tried to step back and let them see it for themselves.

We went to the little cafe across the street that was turned into a makeshift hospital. There are pictures on the wall today, of what that space looked like as a hospital. It is the most real thing I can find to show my eight year old, to help him understand.

This time around we walked up to a glass walkway that stretches over the West Side Highway. Hubby had been there for work and wanted to show the kids a new view.

As we were coming back from that look- out, we stumbled upon a man. I thought he was a beggar at first. I soon realized he was not homeless. He was on a mission.

Armed with his homemade binder of pictures from his treasured City, he spent his days wandering the area around Ground Zero, telling anyone who would listen about what it felt to live there on that day. He explained in great detail the confusion and chaos. He vividly explained how the Brooklyn Bridge was packed with people, from edge to edge, some only able to move forward by holding onto the shirt of the person in front of them because their eyes were so covered in dust and debris.

And as he spoke my little guys listened. Their eyes grew wide and their ears opened. They hung on his every word. As he explained that it was not just one building, but seven, that fell that day, they took it all in and nodded. As he described the sacrifice of many airline cabins full of people, not just the two, my children soaked it in.

And it became real. Through the stories of a man most would pass by and assume homeless, they finally got what I have been trying to teach them for years.

That it was real. It is real. It changed who we are as a country and who we are as a people. We are no longer the ineligible protected Americans in the glass bubble. Suddenly we were vulnerable. Just like the rest of the world. And it changes who we are.

I slipped a five dollar bill in the man's jar before he walked away and began his conversations with another set of tourist. But what he gave my children was worth so much more than five dollars. They will walk around with new eyes and new understanding.

It is something mere money cannot buy.

My only regret is that I did not hug him. And that I didn't have a hundred dollar bill to drop in his jar. Because he gave me a gift that I could never seem to find before.

He gave my children understanding and ownership of a part of their own history that they will never leave behind.

Five Year Plan

Warning: This Scene is Subject to Extreme Change in the Next Five Years.

This is my five favorite people in the world, overlooking the construction of the new Freedom Tower. It is still being called "Ground Zero" but I think "the site of the Freedom Tower" sounds much more optimistic.

The hole is filled with construction vehicles, even on this weekend day that we visited. Foundations are in place and rebar is everywhere. There is no doubt that a big change is on the way.

I am also fully aware that these four children are going through their own construction years. Brains and bones are growing at a rapid rate. Some days I almost swear I can visibly see them getting taller. I keep pouring into them vegetables and milk and the occasional Flintstones vitamin.

So I plan to come to this same spot in five years. October of 2013, we will be back. And we will see how tall the building has grown. We will also see the dramatic changes in my offspring. Both will be facing a bright, bright future. It's hard to imagine now but the change is coming.

I know the change is coming.

Uncomfortable Chaos

A few weeks ago our family went down to NYC to watch Big boy run in a cross country race. Of course we had to stay awhile and have some fun.

Two of my kids love the chaos and non stop noise of this bustling city. Two of them love being in the midst of the crowds, bumping and jostling across the streets before the lights even turn green. Two of them love schleping up and down blocks, searching high and low for the next adventure or odd street performer.

But not these two.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

They're Just Guys

As I was sitting on the exam table dangling my leg and a half off the edge of the table I started thinking about how this experience was so familiar to me. In the four years since I've lost my leg I have spent countless hours perched on exam tables in prosthetist's offices. For a boredom busting activity I tried to recall the names of the prosthetic companies I've used in my short stint as an amputee.

Then I realized something. Their business names were a blur to me. I could recall some snippets of business titles....ability?....peak?....their full names would not come to me.

I know these guys thought long and hard when they named their businesses. But the effort was lost on me. Because when it comes right down to it, they are so far from being a business to me. They are just 'the guys who fix my leg'.

They are the guys who pretend they don't smell the odd odor that sometimes comes along with amputated limbs. These are the guys who listen carefully and thoughtfully before running back to their labs with my leg tucked under their arm. These are the guys who truly care about my family and my life and what activities I want to do. And I'm really glad they do care. Because if it were not for them I would not be able to live this active life I love.

Several times I have been approached by amputees who want to know who I use for leg repairs. After gushing about how much I love 'my guy' I always catch myself. When it comes time to give this stranger the actual name they should call, I draw a blank. All I really know and care about is the location of their office and the name their families call them.

So the names that grace their buildings and business cards fade from my mind. But the names that matter never will. The Mikes, Toms and Joes who have kept me up and moving are the only titles that matter to me. Maybe I should have a chat with my latest great leg guy, and suggest he change the name of his practice to "Mike's Leg Repair". It sure would help me pass along a good recommendation.

Monday, November 10, 2008


My grandma called it. I rebelled against her predictions, but the whole time I was a child, riding the Greyhound bus down to Waco to visit her in the summer, she insisted that some day I would be a teacher or a librarian.

The teacher part I was okay with. I did end up going to college for an elementary education degree and loved every part of it. But the librarian part was almost insulting. Librarians were stuffy. And old. And not very fun. No child answered 'a librarian' when grown ups asked what they dreamed of being. It just couldn't compare to fire fighter or animal doctor.

So here I am, twenty years past that college graduation, thirty years past the grandma predictions, working in a library. And loving it.

I get to be around books all day. I get to see all the books my branch has to offer and all the books we trade back and forth with other libraries. I get to meet other people who love to read and understand my obsession with devouring words on a page any chance I get. Young and old, I see them come up to my desk with their new found treasures and I understand them.

I don't have a library science degree so I can't be officially called a librarian. To my kids and their friends, degrees don't matter. Any person working in a place full of books qualifies for the title.

And just this weekend I had my first hint that my new job may be rubbing off on my kids. All those stories I tell them around the dinner table, about books and library categories and check out procedures....someone has been listening.

It was in the middle of a movie I had checked out for him that my baby boy became irritated. He just didn't buy the story line. Exasperated, he threw up his hands, rolled his eyes, and announced to all in the room (me and the dog) "Now that is just pure fiction!"

Way to catch the terms my boy. Way to catch the terms. You too might make a mighty fine librarian some day. I will just be smart enough not to burden you with my insight.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Regional Fun

Although most of Hubby's family lives in NH, my siblings and father are spread far and wide across the country. I have regular contact with two sisters and a brother, living in Atlanta and Dallas.

These are warm states. States that don't get NY style blizzards. States where the swim season will last more than a month. States where they rarely buy winter coats for their children.

And they like to remind me, in about January, how nice and warm it is in their states. I love the cold weather but I will admit it sometimes sounds pretty sweet, after scraping thick ice off the car windshield for the fifth day in a row. And when I'm stocking up on food with ten million of my neighbors because the forecast calls for another big blanket of snow.

But this time of year I cannot be distracted by the merits of living in a warm state. And I can tell you why with just one word...


I know many people see work, hours of back aching work, when they see a yard full of leaves. But we have children. We have children old enough to use rakes. And they have friends. And if we play the old Tom Sawyer card, we can usually get a few extra helpers involved, free of charge.

I love that my kids will have memories of sledding and snow angels. But I also treasure days like the past week, where we have raked up the same pile of leaves over and over again, and jumped in it, over and over again.

Baby boy has hidden in them and called to the dog to come find him. He has become hard core this year, pulling out the safety glasses and wearing a belt to keep itchy leaf particles out of his pants.

We are far from done with the entire yard. But the part we have done, we have done over and over. It is a joy some children never get to experience. Not because they are economically challenged. Not because their parents don't care.

Mainly because they will be swimming in their backyard pools in December. Just about the time my kids are breaking out the sleds.

Another Birthday

It has been awhile since I posted and things have been crazy around here but I cannot let today slip by without posting about my baby boy. Eight years ago today he left my body. All ten and a half pounds of his cute chubby self.

I was very aware he was my last. Through the whole pregnancy I rubbed my belly and talked to that baby knowing it was the last time my body would nurture a new person internally. As uncomfortable as I was at the end of that nine month journey, there was still a touch of sadness that our exclusive time together was over.

And now, with the snap of my fingers, it is eight years later. This boy has moved three times in his short life, and lived in four states. He has seen a big chunk of the monuments and scenery across this great country.

Not that he'll remember any of it. If he is anything like me, his true memory will begin about this year. And he will tell his life story like this - "We moved around a lot when I was a baby but I grew up in New York."

We celebrated last weekend, when grammy and grandpa were in town from NH (and a super aunt and uncle too) and we celebrated today by taking cupcakes to school. We will have our own little family celebration tomorrow night when all the siblings are home. And then we will move on.

My baby is now eight. He is not a 'little guy' anymore. He is barely letting me continue to read picture books to him at night. We are in a new era in our household. A decade of 'big kids'.

It's all enough to make this mom a bit nostalgic on this special night. On the day my baby turned eight.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Signs of Autumn

Okay, so is there anything more relaxing (and itchy) than laying in a bed of leaves with your next door friend and plotting your next seven year old adventure?

I'm wondering if I could bond more with my friends if we did this more often.

Then again, I can't imagine how relaxing it would be, considering I'd probably get leaf shavings in my Pepsi and/or my underwear.

I'll keep my plastic Adirondack chair for now.

Welcome Autumn. I love your cool temperatures and your bright colors. Hang around awhile so we can play outside just a bit longer, before that good ole snow and ice makes us break out coats and boots again.

And Another...

Fair Warning: This child knows where the hedge clippers are stored.

And he knows how to use them.

Do not, under any circumstances, deny him Halloween candy if he shows up at your door.

I can't be responsible for the consequences.

And Another...

This picture is from two years ago but the scene was the same this morning, just with taller kids.

I love looking out the window and seeing the new sunshine, lighting up the turning leaves.

Nothing says autumn like colored leaves and kids climbing on school buses in the morning.

Except maybe stomach aches from eating too many of those yummy candy corn and candy pumpkins with painted on stems.

And Another...

The spider family that lives in our front fence has been oh so helpful by supplying real live Halloween decorations for us.

Now to convince the neighbor kids that it is not dangerous to open our gate. I am sure the spider family has moved on.

If we're lucky the snake family will show up next.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crop Discounts

This field sits on one corner of a very busy intersection in our tiny little town. On busy days I pass by it several times a day, as do most of my neighbors.

So I wondered, way back in June, what would happen to the billboards that sit right behind this field. They are very effective nine months out of the year. We all spend many minutes, that feel like hours, waiting for that light to change, memorizing the latest ads on the big boards.

But then the farmer came with his tractor. He turned over the soil. He planted some seeds. And the corn started to grow.

Through a wet summer the crop took off and the billboard slowly disappeared. For awhile we could still see 2/3 of it. Then just half. Recently it has almost entirely evaporated from view.

So I am left to wonder....are the advertising rates on these billboards pro-rated? Does the price go down as the corn grows up? Does the bill totally disappear when the billboard does?

Lucky for the advertisers, most of us had committed their messages to memory way back in the early summer. There is not much to look at while sitting at that light.

I count it as a kind of autumn blessing, that our view went from commercial advertising to peaceful farm corn.

I plan to enjoy it for now. Because some day very soon, farmer will be back with his tractor and his harvesting equipment, and the advertisers will pay full price again.

Gremlins with Sharpies

It was just a simple sign, posted on the fridge after just a few too many of my metal baking pans turned to rust in the dry cycle of the dishwasher.

And just after a few too many dishes needed a 'second round' because they had been stacked so strategically I wonder if Hubby is the one who should still be packing the car for long trips.

"Dishwasher" is one of the easier chores around here but even big kids need reminders every now and then.

So sometime in the past week a gremlin appeared. A gremlin who has possession of a Sharpie pen.

I did a double take, thinking I had truly lost my mind , just before making this sign.

Then I got honest with myself and realized maybe the gremlins were trying to tell me something. Maybe I need to be keeping a closer eye on the kitty.

He has seemed extra clean lately.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


This picture makes me relax. And not just from the look of bliss on our kitty's face.

Those long fingers in the picture belong to my Big Boy, who seems to be growing more muscular and 'teen-ager-y' with every passing day.

I took this picture after that same hand had spent a good 15 minutes petting and caressing that kitty, all the while speaking soft warm things into his ear.

His voice may be getting deeper and his shoulders may be growing more broad every day, but there are still traces of my sweet- hearted little boy in there somewhere.

Fair Warning

If you ate chicken nuggets at our house any time in the past two days, these were the hands that made them.

Go with God.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Yesterday I went in to see my leg guy. With the bump up from part time work to full time work, my leg was starting to speak to me. And it was not using nice language.

But Mike fixed the problem and, as usual, he and I got to chatting afterward.

I have always respected Mike, not just for the miracles he works on my metal leg, but for the upstanding character he so effortlessly exudes. Then I found out something new about him.

He lost his leg when he was six.


He was a tornado of a little boy one day, driving his parents and teachers crazy with his little boy energy, then laid up in a hospital bed the next, missing a critical part of his body.

And he lost not 'just' his lower leg. Not even 'just' his upper leg. He lost it all, at the hip.

Did I mention he was six?

But Mike, being the guy he is, didn't tell me sob stories about his childhood. He told me stories about breaking his wooden leg so often in Little League that the legitimate sound of a bat cracking with a powerful hit made his mother cringe. He told me stories of teasing his naive cousin that if she only pushed in her belly button the right way, she too could pop off her leg at the hip.

Stories shared with laughter and smiles. By a man who has a pretty successful life - loving wife, great kids, even a brand new grand daughter.

Of course it made me think about my four babies on my drive home. How each of them has all their limbs. And how most parents worry about childhood diseases and broken bones. But some have to face the reality of lost limbs too.

I rejoice that my son loves to run. A motion I still cannot comprehend. I watch in awe as he so effortlessly bends his arms at the elbow and jogs to the starting line. I have no memory of that sensation. I am just thankful to have full walking mobility returned to me, with the magic of this titanium leg.

I guess it is the curse of the parent who sees first hand the full list of potentially life changing events for their child.

But I chose to emulate my friend Mike. I trust my children will be spared losing a limb in their lifetime. But whatever big hurdle life might throw their way, I wish for them the attitude of a pretty honorable amputee I know. The guy who spends his days keeping amputees upright and productive. All with a smile on his face.