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.

Aged Irony

When I started this blog I was employed at a residential facility that supervised elderly patients who have Alzheimer's Disease. I had been there a year and had grown to love and adore many of the residents I worked with.

But the hours I worked were overnight. I picked that shift for a reason. It meant I was always home during the day, in case the kids needed me. Granted, I would be sleeping most of the time they were in school, but should an emergency come up, I was technically 'there'.

And it worked well for us. The hours were part time so for every two week block I worked five days in a row. Then I got nine days in a row off. So for two thirds of the month it felt like I had no job.

But eventually the hours started to catch up with me. I felt like I checked out of our family for those five days. It became harder to get the sleep blocks I needed. I began to worry about sleep for the first time in my life. And let's be honest. It was making me feel old.

So this summer Hubby and I agreed I might need to start looking around for something with more daylight hours.

Three days later I was at the library with the two youngest boys and a great solution presented itself.

The library was hiring. The hours were perfect for us. The building itself sits right around the corner from our house. The pay was better than my current job.

I needed this job.

So I tweaked my resume and handed it in. Then I waited.

I was told they would not even look at applications until the closing date. So I waited.

Finally, finally the closing date came. Then Labor Day weekend came. So I waited some more.

Long story short, the call finally came for an interview and the interview must have gone well because I was offered the job.

I am so excited to be joining the night sleepers again. I think our bank account will like that this job is a bit closer to full time. The kids love that even when I am at work, I am easily accessible.

But then there was this issue of my old people.

As much as I told myself the schedule was not working, the hours were not working, it was not a long term plan, there was no denying that I had grown to love the residents I worked with. I would have to make peace with leaving them behind.

So here is where the irony comes in. The day I walked in to hand in my application a new display was going up on the long hallways that lead into our library. Several faces jumped off the wall at me.

They were pictures of my people. Not just some of the assorted residents that live in the building where I worked, they were my specific old people. The ones I personally loved.

A local photographer had done an art project with them, where they learned to use digital cameras. And in the process she took photos of them and wrote short life histories for each of them.

So when I walked down that long hallway to turn in my application for the job that would make me leave them, I was surrounded by their smiling faces.

I couldn't decide at first how that made me feel. After handing in my paperwork I went back to the van and sat for a minute before starting the engine. What did it mean? Anything? Was it their blessing to me? Was it a sign I should stay with them? Was I doing the right thing?

But the strongest feeling I had was peace. So I decided to claim it.

I had to think that as much as those people had changed my life, and my thoughts of old people, I hoped I had made their world a bit nicer by our interactions. And I knew they would be just fine in the hands of my co-workers.

I was not scared to leave them. Not nervous. Not even sad, really. They don't always remember me, from shift to shift. But because I remembered them I was able to make sure they had their favorite blanket or got their favorite snack before bed. I can think of only one who might even have a thought that goes something like, "I wonder whatever happened to that tall woman?..."

But they will be okay. I will move on to a job that works better for my day to day life and they will continue to be well cared for and loved by their families and the staff.

Every day of training last week I walked past their smiling faces. Many times I stopped and looked them in the eye. And I still felt nothing but peace.

Peace and love for a time that was short but oh, so sweet. A time when I was blessed to know a pretty great group of old people.

People who were kind enough to follow me to my new job and smile at me along the way.


So Baby Boy started second grade. Not quite as dramatic and heart wrenching as starting Kindergarten, but when he is the youngest of the pack, every school year makes my heart ache for him to be little again.

He has a great teacher and a great love of school and reading, so I really cannot complain. And he still looks forward to seeing me show up in his classroom door, ready to help with some project or activity.

So far this year I have not been to his class during school hours. It is early in, just a few weeks since school started, so I'm holding off, not ready to beg his teacher just yet.

But suddenly a note came home that caught my eye. Today was going to be pirate day.

Pirate Day. Like in bandanas. And eye patches. And a lot of yelling "Arg! Ahoy Matey!"

And, of course, peg legs.

The picture on the note in his backpack had a cartoon character with a peg leg. This was right up my alley!

I ran to the computer and emailed his teacher. I told her that although I have a plastic foot, I have a great prosthetist, who has mentioned that he's recently worn a peg on his leg for Halloween. I would be more than willing to pay him a visit and show up at the classroom with an honest to goodness real peg leg!

Unfortunately she declined my offer. But she did so graciously, and with a smile, so I want to believe she still has me on the list of halfway sane parents.

Parents who are willing to do whatever it takes to help out in the classroom. Because soon Baby Boy won't want me there anymore. And peg leg and me will have to be happy with hugs and smiles delivered only in after school hours.

And my fancy hardware will only be useful on the 31st of October.

I See A Theme.

There are all kinds of new and exiting things going on in Middle Boy's world. He started seventh grade a few weeks ago. And in New York state that means you get to begin learning Spanish. Since his father and I were not thinking in terms of Spanish culture when we named him, he does not have a name that translates easily into the language. He is not a 'Ricardo' or a 'Miguel', so he got to pick from a list of generic names.

He chose 'Nacho'.

I'm not kidding. Nacho was on the list. And my son claimed it.

I am okay with it. But I guess I didn't realize the deeper significance to my boy.

Yesterday we were riding somewhere in the car and Middle Son was trying to explain to his younger brother the hierarchy of his life. Little Brother was under the false assumption that he actually mattered in some significant way to his big brother. And Middle Son was setting him straight. (all in fun...that's what I tell myself as the mother in this situation.)

"See, what you don't get," started Middle Son, "Is that there is a list of things in my life that are important."

Using his palm, held out flat in front of him, he made physical notches in the air as he continued.

"First on my list is parents." (his hand sliced the air up around the level of his eyeballs)
"Next on my list is our pets." (hand dropped down to nose level)
"Then comes nacho cheese...." (again, drop in hand)
"Then comes friends."

He continued the list, trying very hard to come up with things, anything, that might be more important to him that this pesky little brother.

By the time he finished his list, little brother no longer even cared about the conversation. He had been distracted (at about the fifth item on the list) by a new billboard that had a picture of a cool sports car.

But in my mommy mind I tried not to let the list bother me. I know my kids love their dad. I know they love me. And I am pretty sure they love each other. At least as much as nacho cheese.

Pull over

I know I am lucky to have a girl. In this household full of boys my daughter and I stick together. We try to escape and shop every now and then. I take her side when dad fusses at her about her messy room, reminding him that I too had a messy room as a teen and I turned out okay enough for him to pick me as a life long friend.

And then there are the girl terms that might never be uttered in our house if it were not for my daughter.

Headband. French Braid. Earring. Belly Button Ring. (!)

Then another one came up the other day.

I just got a new full time job at the library. I am thrilled to be working at a place I love to be. But just a few days before the job was to start I realized I had never noticed what the library staff wore. I had no idea what the dress code might be.

So I talked the two youngest boys into going to the library with me, not telling them about my reconnaissance mission, just selling the trip as a chance to find new books.

On the way home I asked them if they had noticed what the library staff was wearing.

Without missing a beat, Middle Boy said, "Yeah. That one lady had on a white pullover."

I was confused. There were only two women we saw and both had on dark colors.

After a brief pause, Middle Boy started to laugh. "Just kidding mom! I have no idea what they were wearing. I don't even know what a pullover is!"

As I was shaking my head and rolling my eyes, he suddenly turned serious again.

With a wrinkled brow he cocked his head to the side and said, "Is it something you pull over your head?"

I gave my daughter a big long hug the minute we got home.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fitting In

As a mom who has moved her kids all over the country sometimes I worry that they don't feel a sense of belonging. I want them to feel at home where they live. I look for little signs that all is well. I got one last night.

We were spread out on our king sized bed, watching the first NFL game of the real season. We are big football people and no matter where we live, we have our favorite teams. Since moving to NY we have latched onto the Giants, partially because I have always loved Payton Manning and it seemed fun to now have his brother Eli heading up our 'local' team. So now we are officially Giants fans and our team was on TV last night.

They did a pretty good job. Especially for a team who won the Super Bowl nine months ago. (yes, I felt a need to remind you how well 'our' team has done since we moved here...) There were several big, exciting plays, and Baby boy was watching closely.

At one point the Giants broke free on a running play and got serious yardage. My Baby Boy jumped up, punched the air with his fist and yelled, "Now THAT'S how we do it in New York!"

I guess he's feeling more at home here. It's nice to see the signs.