Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jumping Through Hoops

One annoying down side to living in different states is the whole DMV thing. Every single state we've lived in has had different rules when it came to car registrations and inspections. As if finding new schools, doctors, dentists and grocery stores were not enough, eventually I had to make the trek down to the local DMV and get things sorted out.

New York has been the hardest to get used to. Not only was it almost impossible for us to get NY license plates, don't even ask what it takes to get a driver's license changed over. I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd asked for a blood and urine sample. It was such a big deal when we finally took the Utah plates off the car and replaced them with the NY version that we all stood around and took pictures. We had lived here a year by then and finally felt like New Yorkers.

But it does not stop there. The way this crazy state is set up you have to stay on your toes. Every year each car gets an inspection. Every two years you update your registration. No notice in the mail. You just have to notice it's coming due. (I guess...since I've never gotten a notice in the mail and we've now been here almost four years) I'm not so good on the 'just noticing' thing.

Case in point - last weekend our daughter got pulled over and handed a ticket. Not for speeding. She's very careful about her speed, knowing it's what cops are looking for when it comes to teens. The ticket was not for disobeying traffic laws. Again, she is super careful about those things. She knows her driver's manual inside and out(and quizzes her brother, a new driver, every chance she gets). The ticket she got, while driving the family minivan, was for an expired registration.

Not just expired. Over a year expired.

It was due in March of 2009. Ouch. How in the world did that happen? How in the world did the three of us drive that minivan, to and from work, shopping, New Hampshire, and not once get pulled over for this? How did it happen that my daughter, the one paranoid about being a good driver, is the one who got nailed?

And the way the law works, if we plead guilty (which we are!) she gets the mark on her license. No exceptions. Even though it's not her car and her mom's the negligent party. Talk about feeling like you've failed your kid.

So I did what any neurotic mother would do. I called the town court where the ticket originated. I talked to the clerk. I pleaded my case. And she gave me a possible out.

If I get a new inspection quickly, and send it in with the ticket, sometimes the judge will give mercy and waive the ticket. Sometimes.

But hey, it's sure worth a try.

So I spent my Monday morning at Jiffy Lube, gettin' my inspection. Along with the responsible citizens who had up to date inspections and were just getting oil changes. Maybe some day I'll get around to that too.

And of course the inspection failed. We've had this annoying little check engine light on for a few months and our mechanic could not find where it was coming from so we've learned to pretend we dont see it. Turns out it's related to our emissions. So round two, here we come.

After a day at the shop today, and juggling three people's schedules with just one car now, we might have a verdict. The mechanic thinks it will be an easy fix. Then he'll do the new inspection and we'll be on our way.

I'll make the photo copies and send my pleading letter to the judge. Then we cross our fingers as he makes his decision.

And maybe, just maybe, I will learn to be more responsible. Those little colored stickers on the windshield? They actually mean something. Maybe it's time I learn how to read them.

If for no other reason, so my daughter can keep her driving record clean.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Scary Side of HD

Our family has really been enjoying the new series called "Life" that is playing on the Discovery Channel. Since we recently inherited a high definition (HD) television the shows have been especially spectacular.

It's a great family show. Generally this is how it plays out - Hubby and I snuggle in to watch it, with Sam and Isaac, our younger ones, perched on the couch between us. The big kids are 'too busy' when we call up the stairs to see if they want to join us.

Then the big kids eventually wander downstairs, for a snack or to check facebook pages, and suddenly there are five, then six of us laid out in the living room, oohing and ahhing at each incredible nature scene. We use the rewind feature on the cable box often, wanting to see, just one more time, how each scene played out.

From the first episode on I had to self monitor, so I didn't say "How'd they GET that shot??" five thousand times in the course of one hour.

So last night the show was winding up. Younger kids were warned that as soon as the show ended it was time for bed, no exceptions!

As the show went to its last commercial it showed a brief preview as to what would be the last segment of the night....some never before seen footage of large humpback whales in an elaborate mating ritual.

The younger kids giggled.

Okay, Hubby and I giggled and the younger kids just followed our lead. Then Sam, who just last year, on his eighth birthday, was told the full story of the birds and the bees, got a bit nervous.

He fidgeted around for a minute then turned to me and in full seriousness said, "So...maybe we should turn the HD feature off before the show comes back on...?"

Forget about R rated movies. Sometimes it's uncomfortable to watch nature shows with your parents.

In the Kitchen with Isaac

He is my kid who loves to cook. He loves the mixing and the pouring and the licking of bowls when it is all done.

He is also my comedian. Hardly a day goes by that he doesn't make me laugh.

So it shouldn't have surprised me to overhear him talking to the cantaloupe as he so diligently dove into his assignment of making fruit cubes for dinner. The words out of his mouth did not make sense until I looked up from my own stirring and mixing.

"Hold on Phil! You're gonna make it! The Medi-Vac is on it's way!"

I looked over to see him bent over the small round fruit, holding the two sides of the cantaloupe together as its orange-y 'guts' spilled out onto the counter.

"Hold on Buddy! You're gonna make it!"

Everything's a war game with boys, isn't it? I guess I should be thankful mine was playing medic, not assassin....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wherever She Goes

I put her on a train this morning. She stood in line with other travelers headed to Penn Station, many men in suits, a few college kids with heavy backpacks, one mom with a toddler and a bag overflowing with diapers and juice boxes. In the midst of generic humanity stood my girl. My tall, confident, soon to be out of my household girl.

This year I have been hyper aware of every goodbye I say to her. I can almost physically feel her slowly peeling away from my care, hear the scratchy sound as our velcro disconnects. After researching many far away schools she finally settled on a college that is nearby. I will (hopefully) still see her at least once a week, when she comes home to do laundry and borrow groceries from our cupboards. But it won’t be the same.

We will suddenly lose the impromptu conversations that pop up when you aren’t looking. Like last night, when her father and I were literally about to drift off to sleep and she got home from work, popping her head into our room to say good nights. She was wide awake, having had a nap before her shift at work, and as the goodnights moved into other conversations, suddenly our girl was spread out across the bottom of our king sized bed, freely sharing and laughing with her usually out of touch, irrelevant parents.

I didn’t have to look sideways to know my husband, like me, was soaking up the easy relaxed way she seemed to be content in our presence. She tends to be guarded with her feelings, especially with dad, as he gets too easily grouped into the lump of ‘boys’ along with her brothers, people she doesn’t understand most of the time and doesn’t seem to care to. I wasn’t the only one taking in every magical moment on such an ordinary night.

Before she separated her now tired body from our soft, down comforter we had come upon an exciting plan. Hubby had work down in NYC today and had a hotel room in Times Square. Daughter had no pressing assignments at school and no work until Thursday night. And Daughter loves to be in the City. She is willing to do anything to spend time in the City. Even if it means 24 hours alone with boring dad.

I don’t know who slept less, giddy with excitement, my husband or my daughter. She stumbled upon an accidental trip and he had secured some treasured time with a daughter who needs just a bit more fun time with dad to see how truly great he is. I couldn’t help but be excited too.

So this morning I sent her off. He went down early, to get some meetings out of the way, and I drove her down to the train station mid morning. We waited forever, as we always do, for the train coming in from Buffalo. Something about the mist of Niagara Falls must make that train late every time. I gave the hugs and last bit of safety advice (“I know, mom!”) and she was off to find her way alone.

As I stood on the platform waiting for the train to depart I couldn’t be worried. This is a child who navigated several small airports in Brazil, by herself, not speaking a word of Portuguese, when she was thirteen. I had no idea she’d be in that position until she returned home from the trip. But she did it, and she did it successfully, so she and I both came away from the experience confident in her abilities.

This is a child who is not afraid of the world or how to find her way. She knows how to ask for directions and read a subway map sign. She has a debit card with money on it. She has a cell phone, for heaven’s sake, and instant contact with her dad and I if she needs it. But she probably won’t.

Because it’s that time of life for her. Time to see what she wants to see and discover her own skills. Jumping on an Amtrak train for a leisurely two hour ride down to the City is nothin’ to this kid. Just a chance to play hooky for a day, read her magazine and listen to her ipod. Then she’ll get off the train, find her way up to Times Square and browse to her heart’s content until dad meets up with her in the late afternoon.

I got to spend my day in the City with hubby last week. This week it’s her turn.

Time to make memories with this dad who will come to mean more to her the farther she moves away from him. But for today, tonight, and tomorrow they will make some new, much needed fun memories. Maybe they will come closer to being friends.

The kind of friend you become with your parents once you have some space away from them. That’s what next year will be about for her. Finding her space.

And realizing that no matter how many trains I put her on that take her away from me, I will always be there waiting on the platform for the day she comes back.

Get Outta That Spot!

For the past four weeks my son has attended a once a week after school enrichment program. Every Tuesday I eagerly watch for his school bus and when he doesn’t get off, I suddenly remember that I’m supposed to be picking him up. It’s a great system for a forgetful mom.

So I wait until four o’clock and I get in the minivan to drive the four minutes to his school. If we didn’t live next to a very busy street he could walk home almost as quickly as I could drive him.

And because about fifty other moms are making the same trek, our small elementary school parking lot is totally packed for the eight minutes it takes all of us to park, walk in the doors, take our child’s hand, and walk back out to our vans. We are all there for the exact same five minute window of time that these enrichment classes let out.

Ten minutes before that time the parking lot is empty. Ten minutes after it is empty again.

Every week I see something that drives me insane. And if a blog is for nothing else, it is for venting about things that drive you insane, even if no one else might care. So I am going to take my chance and air my grievances.

Every week, and I mean EVERY week, there are one or two moms who park in the two handicapped spaces right in front of the school. They are not always the same two moms and I have rarely actually seen the faces of said moms, but I am highly suspicious that they are not handicapped.

For one thing, there are no hang tags in the windows of these vans. For another, I have seen a few of the drivers actually get out and sprint to the doors, with that hurry in their step that says, “I’ll just be a minute….”

Now I hesitate to confront. I know firsthand that some disabilities are invisible to the naked eye. My metal leg tends to scream out validity, especially on the days I wear shorts. But I am sympathetic to the stares and judgment that some drivers must face when they live with things like weak hearts or lung conditions.

But the kicker of the story is that I DO own a handicap tag and I purposefully don’t park in those spaces. I am fully capable of finding a farther spot and making my way across the parking lot like the rest of the moms and dads. Occasionally I do have a bad leg day, so I dig out my hang tag and take a spot. But that is such a rare event I generally have to dig for five minutes to even find my tag in the bottom of the stack of maps.

So it makes me very protective of those bright blue wheelchair logos painted on the pavement. I am probably not the only parent or grandparent that doesn’t need it every day, but might need it some day. And if a selfish, lazy, running late parent tries to justify their use of the space, it personally offends me.

The rest of us are ‘just going to be a minute…” but we don’t use those spaces. The rest of us are busy and would love to shave five minutes off our errands by not trekking across the large parking lot. But we don’t. We either get there early enough for a closer space or we deal with the fact we might get a little bit of much needed exercise.

I’ve called the school. They have been very sympathetic and put notices in the school newsletters. Maybe the offending drivers see it, but I’m sure not all of them take the time to read the newsletter. So in the meantime they continue to use those sacred spaces for their personal running-late spots.

And it continues to bug me.

That’s all. I’ve said my peace. Now let’s return to your regularly scheduled program.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The New Mrs. McMahon

A long, long time ago, when our family picture had only three little smiling preschooler faces I had a friend who loved my children nearly as much as I did. She was a valuable friend to have because her children were almost exactly eight years older than each of our children. It gave us a daily glimpse into what our not so distant future might look like.

When she was dealing with the struggles of beginning middle school and seeing high school on the horizon, we were just getting started in the elementary school thing. While their family dealt with pre-teen hormone swings we were studying second and third grade spelling words. It was interesting to watch how the parents of older kids coped and it made me appreciate the stages we were in, not a hundred percent confident that I could handle the older kid stuff.

After Jeff, Sandra was the first person I told when I found out I was finally pregnant with baby number four. She nearly flew out of her chair as we sat waiting for the PTA meeting to start. “A baby!?” she cried out, “We’re having a baby??” She was so involved in my life and my children’s lives, that she felt like she was the one having just one more.

It would help to know that Sandra was a baby person. Maybe that’s why I bonded with her so quickly when we first met. She is the only person on the planet I’ve ever met who understood how deeply I love all things baby. She had other life interests but when it came to her four kids, who would always be her babies, nothing else mattered. Her first and most important role in life was to be a mommy.

Through my whole pregnancy Sandra kept track of every milestone. The first flutters of movement and the first bouts of morning sickness were our constant topics of conversation as we chatted by our minivans at school pick up time. We pored over the ultrasound pictures until they were almost rubbed thin. When we found out our last child would be a boy, it led to weeks and weeks of baby name discussions.

When the third week of October brought productive labor pains we were all ready to meet this new family member. Just days after Sandra’s son, “Big Sam” turned 16, our little Sam arrived into the world.

He received much love from his own older siblings, but just as reliable were the daily kisses and tickles from his other mom, known to my children as Mrs. McMahon. She adored him so much that when we went to activities after school, if I put my toddling Sam down on the floor, he would stumble down the slick hallways to leap into the arms of his other mama.

It broke Sandra’s heart when we announced we would be moving to Washington D.C. and taking her extra son with us. She knew his little toddler memories would never retain the love and fun they had shared. But she knew it was best for our family, and ultimately any baby is blessed to be loved by extra moms, even if he never remembers it.

We keep in touch, through Christmas and birthday cards. I can’t believe her adorable children are all grown up into such amazing adults now and she can’t believe our big kids are now in high school and middle school. And of course she can’t get over how big her ‘second Sam’ has grown, year after year.

This story of my good friend Sandra comes to mind because I feel myself becoming the next Mrs. McMahon. In the past year I have been blessed with the addition of three new babies in my life. All were born last fall and two of them live right next door to me. This means I get to see them on a regular basis and will possibly see them even more as the weather warms up enough for lawn chair chats.

It has been a pure joy to meet these little people, hold their floppy heads as they were first introduced to our family, and now to see their bright smiles when I coo at them. I love spending time with them, as it reminds me so clearly of the time, so long ago, when our children were the ones just learning to sit up and hold a toy.

I’m at that in between stage, where the years of being the mom of a little person are over but the years of being the grandma to a little one are still years away. So these new extra babies have found a perfect fit in my life.

I suddenly understand, so clearly, what drew my friend Sandra to my baby boy. Her youngest was eight when my Sam was born. My Sam was eight when these new babies of mine were born last fall. It just seems right.

The pattern has come full circle and now it’s my turn to be the goo-ing extra mom. It’s my turn to provide love and support on a part time status. I am ready. It’s my turn.

It will be an honor to be the next Mrs. McMahon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Good Mom

Two weeks ago I noticed a change in my son. He is seventeen. He is male. But generally he’s been a pretty decent teen to live with. He gives his dad lip sometimes, the classic challenge of authority I read about when he was a toddler, and I was scared to death of ever being the mother of teens. Generally dad is patient and so far hasn’t strung him up from a tree in the front yard.

But overall he’s been pretty easy going with me. I buy him the right granola bars and make sure his lizard has fresh crickets once a week. I seem to do things to his satisfaction and if anyone is going to be the bad guy, it’s dad. Until a few weeks ago. Then someone else came to live in the body that used to house my son.

He started being crabby over little things. His laundry wasn’t done fast enough for his standards. It annoyed him when I didn’t see him in the pack of fifty kids standing outside the high school after track practice. I dared to pull forward and park, yes park, which meant he had to walk an extra fifty feet. Unforgivable.

The crabbiness carried over to the hour before dinner, when he used to come into the kitchen and sneak a few bites of the freshly cut carrots or peanut butter dipped celery while he scoped out what I was making for dinner. I would ask about his day, he would smile and share only the basics, but hey, we were talking.

Then the mood changed and I no longer recognized this boy. I tried to take cues from his dad, who was more familiar with the fussy factor. When the comments, made in anger, got very personal and downright un-necessary he was sent to his room. He was not happy about it but it was very evident our ‘discussion’ was not productive and the rest of the family didn’t need to be poisoned by his anger.

The next day he was better. Still not the boy I used to know but tolerable. Slowly, day by day, he has begun to come around. Whatever hormones were raging seemed to be finally quieting a bit. Whatever life situations he had issue with before, didn’t seem so important anymore.

Then today happened.

It’s our first truly sunny day in a half a year. After long months of overcast skies and rain storms alternating with snow storms, it looks like spring might actually arrive someday soon. The sun has been shining through the window all morning, calling me outside. I sat at my computer desk, doing the paperwork that needed to be done, knowing I would get to escape after lunch, to pick up my boy from school a couple of hours early.

His school physical is due if he wants to retain his spot on the track team. I printed off the form from the school website then happily walked out the door into the warm breezes that made me instantly feel ten pounds lighter. I practically skipped to the car and within minutes he was jumping into the front seat, free from the chains of school pressures. I welcomed the big smile that radiated from his face.

“My biophilia is kickin’ in!” he announced.

I had no idea what ailment that might be, but I liked what it was doing for my kid.

“My science teacher told us about it. It’s like a proven scientific fact or something, about how humans are drawn to nature and yearn to be out in it, not cooped up in buildings. It’s why we keep lookin’ out the window when we are sitting inside.”

I had never heard of this phenomenon but in the brightness of the moment, with my suddenly happy go lucky kid sitting in the seat beside me, practically radiating joy, I was an instant believer.

He chattered away as we made the short trek to the doc’s office. Even in the waiting room he freely shared about his day, his thoughts, his newest scientific beliefs. At one point his face clouded over and he leaned in to me, wanting to whisper into my ear.

“Mom, we forgot the physical form…it’s in my locker at school…”

I coolly reached over into my purse and pulled out a copy I’d printed off from the internet. Instant delight once again returned to his face. Big, big good mama points.

He passed his physical with flying colors, of course. The kid is almost 5’10” of pure muscle and health. He runs all the time, eats mostly good stuff, and never complains about physical ailments. As we stood at the checkout desk his face once again became cloudy.

The track bus was scheduled to leave from the high school at 2:45, headed to a nature preserve for some long running trails. Afterward the gang would stop at the local quick stop, where you get free ice cream cones if you wear green on St. Patrick’s day. My boy knew he’d never make it back to school in time to catch the bus. I was suddenly determined to get him there.

He really, really, really wanted to drive so I let him have my keys (gulp) and we were off, carefully navigating the five miles to school, hoping to catch the bus just in time.

As we pulled into the long drive that leads to the school we both saw it at the same time. The bus was pulling out and headed our way, packed full of track kids and headed for the park.

“Just pull over and we’ll flag the bus down.” I said.

He hesitated. Like his dad, he doesn’t like making quick decisions. But sometimes if you don’t jump quickly, you miss out.

“Really,” I said, “Just put the car in park. I will stop the bus.”

He still wasn’t sure but he did as instructed. Right in the middle of the school driveway we came to a complete stop. I got out and came around to the middle of the road, conveniently wearing my bright orange rain jacket, and I threw my hand up in the air, as if I were waving down a NYC cab.

And whatdayaknow...the bus driver saw me in plenty of time and he stopped. With a huge grin on his face, my son hopped out of the van, grabbed his gym bag out of the back seat and trotted off to the bus. Cheers came from inside the bus as his running buddies realized Mike had made it after all.

More big good mama points. I got a big wave from his coach, then from my boy, as the bus pulled away and I took over the driver’s seat of my double-parked minivan. And you know what? I couldn’t stop smiling on the way home.

Maybe it was the sun shining so soothingly through the front windshield. Maybe it was the incredibly warm breeze that wafted in from rolled down windows.

Or maybe, more likely, it was because I seem to have my boy back. For now, for just this afternoon at least, I am back to being the good mom, the one who looks out for him and does things right. The one who meets his needs and makes him happy.

And that, my friend, feels really, really sweet.

A Man You Can Trust

When I was in college I spent one summer as a nanny for one of the directors of a sports camp in Southern Missouri. I spent my days entertaining and supervising his children and most of our social network included other kids of camp directors. I got to know the moms very well and enjoyed watching their mothering styles as I looked ahead to my own future as a mother some day.

It surprised me greatly one day when one of the moms made a comment to me about not trusting her husband. She revealed to me, very casually, that she could not leave her preschoolers home alone with their dad because he often put them in situations that were downright unsafe. He had no intention of being a negligent parent, he just didn’t see the world the same way as his wife and disagreed with what he considered her irrational fears.

I was intrigued by her dilemma so I asked her for specifics. “Well, for instance,” she began, “last week he took two of them with him to the store to get milk. He drove them in his Jeep, with the top down, and didn’t make them wear seatbelts.” (this was before booster seats were common) “He said he wanted them to feel the rush of the wind blowing through their hair as they zipped along the windy back roads.”

It baffled me that any parent could think that was an appropriate activity to do with small children. I must have looked confused because she then went on to describe what a wonderful dad he was otherwise. He was caring, gentle, loving and playful with their children. He provided them with a nice house and a comfortable bank account so the mother could stay home from work. He was the first one up when one of them cried in the night.

The only problem seemed to be that she couldn’t trust him with their safety.

Her stories made a deep impression on me. I had a general list in my head of what my ideal mate might be like, but being able to trust him with small children didn’t seem to be necessary to add. I assumed any man who had those other good qualities, would be commonsensical when it came to little people, especially his own. For the first time it dawned on me that this might not be the case.

I have thought about that mom many times as I’ve raised my own kids. There are so many situations we’ve been in where it was imperative that I could trust Jeff to make wise, safe choices for our children. Many times I tried to imagine living the life that camp mom did, and I couldn’t imagine not trusting my own spouse.

Every time he took them on long walks in the woods, where they had to cross streams and walk along deep ledges, I had to trust him. When I checked into the hospital, either to give birth again or to have yet another surgery on my foot, I had to trust that he would make good decisions for them. As they’ve gotten older and their lives include things like air soft guns and cliff diving opportunities, I have to trust him.

I have to know, deep in my soul, that he would never allow them to do anything that might be above and beyond an average risk. And it’s been nice to be able to say, every single day of our life together, that I do trust him, sometimes even more than myself.

This point was made very clear to me on a day last week when I found myself in the very back seat of our minivan, a passenger in a vehicle being driven by my son, who had just received his driver’s permit. It was only his second time behind a wheel, both times in the safety of a large empty parking lot, but it was enough to scare the crap out of me.

Fortunately his dad was in the front passenger’s seat, giving patient guidance and calm directions, just as he did for our oldest child just two years ago. I was rarely involved in teaching our daughter to drive. Her dad took her out on long drives in the country and repeated trials on the highway, to make sure she knew as much as she could about this art of driving before she took her final test.

I knew as soon as her brother decided he wanted his turn at the wheel, Jeff would step up once again and play the role of driving instructor. And he has.

To his great credit, he has.

So as I was chauffeured around the large expanse of empty parking lot the other night I was doing everything I could to keep my mouth shut. I just happened to be there, and it was not my place to butt in on the expert’s instruction. I did my best to keep quiet and the conversation I’d had with camp mom so many years ago kept coming back to me.

By the time we turned the corner to drive home I had found a new, calming mantra to quiet my nerves. “Thank God I married a man I can trust. Thank God I married a man I can trust.”

In his long list of great attributes, one of my all time favorites is that he’s a man I can trust.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dream Big Dreams

I discovered something this weekend: it’s nice to surround yourself with people who follow their dreams. As I’ve gotten older I’ve done a lot of cleaning house in my personal life. I realized that as time kept flying by, my days seemed shorter, so it was critical that I spend my time concentrating on positive things and positive people. And this weekend I got a taste of how sweet it is to know amazing people.

I have to be honest and say I was not a good sport when the weekend started. I spent all day Saturday at work and by the time evening rolled around I was tired. The last thing I wanted to do was go out, squeeze into stadium seating with crowds of other people, and watch a lengthy orchestra concert performed by high school kids. But one of those kids was a kid I call my extra son. He lives down the street and has become a part of our family in the past few years. I adore this kid and knew the right thing to do was to attend his concert.

I rushed home after work, rounded up a few family members, then headed off to the high school to do my duty. As expected we had to jostle through a large crowd and scurry to find four seats together. Again, not what I would have preferred to do on a tired Saturday night. Then the concert started.

It was amazing. The energy in that auditorium was infectious. The way those kids belted out that first song, a rock song, and the excitement they generated was more than enough to pull me out of my slump. The stress and tiredness from my day faded away and I sank back in my chair, in complete awe of what those kids could do.

They were fired up because this concert was the culmination of a workshop they’d experienced with a visiting musician named Mark Wood. He brought along his contagious enthusiasm for music but also something more inspiring - his electric instruments. Wood is one of the few people who takes orchestra instruments and makes them electric.

Obviously, this is a very exciting idea to most teen age kids. You could see in their actions and in their faces how much this one man helped these kids fall in love with their craft in a whole new way. It was an honor to be in the audience to watch it happen.

And to make it even more special, in the middle of the concert I had another surprise. One kid had made this whole thing happen. One kid was a huge fan of Mark Wood and got the wheels turning to make this amazing thing happen.

That kid was my extra son.

In all of the days he had been hanging out at my house he’d never mentioned that it was his idea to have this super star come to his school. He told me they were having a visitor but never revealed his part in the process. But my boy had a dream, for years he’d had this dream, and Saturday night it all came true. I could not have been more proud if he were my own real son. And I was in awe that I live every day in the presence of this kid.

We went to bed with the shimmer of pride for our extra son but the alarm clock woke us early on Sunday morning. We were due to arrive at a church out in the country to see a musical that I had heard about and felt a need to attend. Mainly because this musical, every note of every song, every line of dialogue, was written by a friend of mine and her husband.

For a long, long time I have heard her talk about this project, this musical about Daniel from the Bible, and been fascinated that she would undertake such a large venture. I kept telling her, ‘Let me know when you’re done. I’d love to see it.’ But I knew musicals are complicated and it might be a decade before the project came to fruition.

But it didn’t take a decade. She and her husband finished it last year and their church performed it this year, last week in fact. We showed up early to get good seats and settled in to see what our friend was capable of. And once again, twice in 12 hours, I was blown away.

The music was amazing. The dialogue was engaging and meaningful. The storyline was accurate to history but made so personal as it played out on the stage in front of us. Every character was perfectly cast, even though she ‘only’ had members of her church to pick from. Through the whole production I kept thinking to myself, “How is it possible that I know people who are capable of these things?”

So even though it was a crazy weekend, much more full of activity than a normal weekend for our family, it was worth every minute. My eyes were opened to what can happen when ordinary people have extraordinary dreams. I saw for myself how rich life can be when you don’t let doubts get in your way. It’s time I get my dreams in order and start my own pursuits.

I’d hate to disappoint these big dreamers who seem to surround me on all sides.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do it!

I cannot let this day pass by without posting about its significance. I was made aware of the importance of this day just a few years ago but loved the implications so I embrace it every year.

Today is March fourth. The fourth day of the month of March. But it is also the only day on the calendar that is a command to do something - March FORTH!

I believe this day, that is a command, is the perfect time to take a minute to reflect on how things are going. Did the new years resolutions not work out? Are they still things you really care about? Is there any area of your life that you feel is holding you back? A relationship that needs tweaking or even one that may need true CPR?

Today is the day to tackle it. Be brave. Don't hold back. Give yourself a challenge and live up to it. It's time to get serious and March Forth.

I have decided I am not as strong as I used to be. In my whole body but specifically in my legs. Just after my surgery I worked out like a crazy woman, so excited to have two legs that worked. I was strong.

I walked taller and was more coordinated. It was so exciting to have two strong limbs, after struggling along with just one able limb for so many years.

But in recent years, mainly since we've moved to NY, I have been negligent about keeping up with my strength training. Life was hectic in the first year, as we unpacked, remodeled a third of our house on our own, and settled our kids into new high schools, middle schools and elementary schools.

Then the next year hit and I went back to work. First I was part time, then full time. The schedule was crazy in a new way and life was on fast forward.

Last fall I was thrilled to move back to part time. I am finding balance, finally. It's been a long road but I am back to peace most days of the week. So it's time to get serious about strength again. Mentally I am strong again. It's time to earn back my physical strength.

I have started this week, on March 1st, a new plan. My incredible sister in law, Terry, is serving as my mentor and coach. She runs in marathons despite a serious problem with asthma and intestinal problems. Just thinking of her inspires me to make good choices. She is long distance, in NH, but with the beauty of the internet I have her at my beck and call.

I hit a few speed bumps in my first few days of the new plan but instead of giving up I am choosing to MARCH FORTH! I will re-group today, analyze why things are not going smoothly, and re-craft a plan that can work.

Because there is no time to give up. Life's gonna come speeding along the track. I can either sit back and stay soft or I can do what this day is commanding - March FORTH!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympic Moments

I'm not a fan of hockey. Most sports (with the exception of professional wrestling or boxing) I can bear to watch if I'm in the actual stadium, seeing it live. But NFL football is about the only sport I enjoy watching on TV.

So when hubby breezed into the office yesterday and asked if I was planning to join him and the boys as they tuned into the Olympic Hockey game between the U.S. and Canada, I politely declined.

"Maybe I'll come join you guys in the third period..." I offered.

"Could be over by then," he said. "You really have to watch a game unfold."

I gave him a weak 'maybe' and went back to my writing.

Then, as I tried to ignore them, I couldn't help but hear my gang settling in. Everyone staked their claim on the seating options. There was a discussion about popcorn being made. Jeff tuned in the TV, which had preliminary reporting that radiated excitement.

"Oh, O-KAY!" I said, "I'm in!"

After all, who makes popcorn from scratch better than mom and who would Sam snuggle up against once he got sleepy?

And of course it ended up being one of the best hockey games ever played. (or so I'm told, I have no personal experience to compare it to) We watched every slap of the stick and laughed about announcer terminology that is pretty unfamiliar to this hockey-free house. (active sticks?) It turned out to be kind of fun, being a part of an event that was seen around the world by as many people as the Super Bowl I cared so much about.

Lots of laughs with my boys, even the one who has adopted a case of moodiness in recent days. The animals gathered around us, somehow sensing something special was happening, and when that puck flew into the net with only 24.4 seconds to go, tying us with Canada, I thought we would all have immediate heart attacks.

It turned out to be the perfect way for the Olympics to leave our house. It's been a pretty great two weeks, watching so many interesting sporting events unfold. We've tuned in every night, watching many events live and taping others to watch later. From the parade of athletes at opening ceremonies to the last song of closing ceremonies we have been engaged.

We love just about every winter sport and seeing so many high caliber athletes perform demonstrations of how they are done perfectly, was inspirational and incredibly entertaining. There were moments when I was almost sure I could do some of those moves, until I was forced back to the reality that I'm pretty much a bunny hill person and a bit past Olympic athlete age. I'm more like the moms in the stands, giving hugs and handing out posters.

But it was fun to have something built into every evening that all of my kids enjoyed. Whether we analyzed the jumps in snowboard competitions or watched in awe as expert skiers did flips off the fifty foot launch pad, we had common ground for fourteen straight days. We laughed as we tried to understand the purpose of curling and we (I) cried as we watched a beautiful skater make her suddenly absent mama very proud. We pretended we were experts, parroting back event rules and scoring systems we'd just heard for the first time ourselves. We fell in love with all the new 'cross' events, from snowboard cross to ski cross and were fascinated by how sudden blowing snow could so quickly change a race and course conditions. We practically felt like we were there.

I will miss these Olympic games. I've never felt so connected to them. We've watched in the past. We moved to Salt Lake City just a year after the Games left and got to enjoy the amazing Olympic Training Park that was left behind. We got to try many winter sports during our three year residency in Utah, including the luge and bobsled. The kids all learned to ski on Utah's perfect snow, even Sam, who had just turned four. Then we moved to this place, that is just a short drive away from another Olympic Training ground, in Lake Placid. So we seem to be surrounded by the Olympic spirit.

Maybe its because I feel a kinship with the moms I see in the stands, cheering on their inspiring children. Maybe its the 'thanks mom' commercials that ran non stop and made me cry every time. Maybe its the fact I spent more time snuggling with my usually off on their own adventures children than I have in months. But I felt really connected to these games. I'm truly sad to see them go.

Four years is a long time. The next time we get to enjoy a winter Olympics I will have a seventh grader, a senior, and two kids about to finish college (we hope). It seems like a lifetime away but I know from experience it will be here in a flash.

In the meantime I have a new respect for the country that lies just north of our own. I never realized just how beautiful it was. They put on a pretty spectacular party. So it just seemed right that after our big hockey come back at the last minute, the true gold went to the men in red and white. Silver ain't so bad, boys. It was fun to see the city that embraced us all get a chance to rejoice, peacefully, in the streets.

Thanks for the fun, Canada. It's been great. Gold medal job, all the way.