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.