Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer Art

This is what you can create with some colorful beads, split peas, chow mein noodles, assorted snacks from the kitchen cabinet and a long afternoon playing with your best friend.

Where Did He Go?

I snapped this bottom picture in the park, during Hubby's birthday picnic. I was startled when it pulled up on my screen as I unloaded the memory stick at home. He looks so....old.

The top picture was not taken that long ago. Thanksgiving about ten years ago. Ten short years. He went from a pixie faced precious boy to this grown up precious young man. What I am truly thankful for: his heart is just as big and his nature is just as sweet as when he was that little smiling pilgrim.

But I'm left with one question. Where did my little boy go?

Kind of Creepy

Okay, so here's the story. I generally am not a superstitious, or suspicious, or whacked out person who sees the Virgin Mary in every odd shaped corn flake. But this kind of creeped me out.

I was walking past the sink the other morning and felt a 'face' looking up at me. I assumed someone had dropped a magazine page in the dish pan. (Don't laugh. I have boys. I have found stranger things in my dishpan before.)

I went back to dig it out and saw it was just water. And some assortment of juices or food scraps, or something else that leaked off dirty dishes as they were loaded into the dishwasher.

And it was a face. It was so clear in person that I couldn't stop looking at it. Then of course the natural next reaction was to take a picture of it. It felt sacreligious to rinse it out, but after about an hour I had to, for my own peace of mind.

The 'lady' swirled down the sink and has not shown her face again. I'm kind of glad she's gone. Mine should be the only scary face my kids see in the morning.

Who's There?

No, this is not a posting of a knock-knock joke. I got a comment today from a kind blogger, about the post I did on educating people about my artificial leg. I was tickled that someone is actually reading this rambling I do. :)

So I was wondering if there are others 'out there'. If you don't mind, take a second to comment to this posting, so I know who's lurking around. It is fun to write for actual readers.

P.S. The top picture has nothing to do with the post...I just loved it and couldn't think of another reason to share it. I love that Kylie looks like she's actually smiling, when in reality she was trying her best to get away. The second picture was uploaded accidentally and I am so new at this blogging thing that I don't know how to get rid of just tolerate it for now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Money Required

Earlier this morning I had all four kids write their dad a letter. I had no say in what they wrote. Even Baby Boy was capable of writing down his feelings.

And when they were done they sealed the letters in envelopes. A private message from their hearts to their dads.

So after our picnic we brought them out. And he read through each one, grinning the whole time.

I still don't know what those letters said. I suspect they listed the fun things he does with them or the ways he tries to make their lives better. No matter what, it meant a lot to him. To see in writing what he means to each of his four kids.

And some day in the future (soon) when one of them is being sassy or disrespectful or unappreciative, he can pull out his letters and remember what is hiding in their true character.

Poor Mans Picnic

Any other day we would drive some back roads and find a perfect park to have our picnic. On this day we picked up Hubby from work and had a surprise lunch packed in the trunk. We challenged him to find a good park so we could have a birthday picnic. We drove to one that was on our trusty map.

It was overrun with about 53 camp kids.

So we tried another.

It didn't exist. We drove through a short street lined with run down houses right on a small lake and there was no hint of a park.

So we tried for a third. And we found a deserted ball field, a view of a lake, and a grassy spot.

So we took it. Quiet and Peaceful. It would do.

Because there was no picnic table, only one board designed to keep people from driving into the lake, we did the next best thing. We took the bench seat out of the van.

And I have to say, it worked very well.

We sat around munching on our ham and cheese sandwiches and Cool Ranch Doritos and slurped down our orange soda and had a jolly good time.

Then came the best part.

Perfect Day

This picture says it all. This is hubby's idea of a perfect birthday. Surrounded by his kids. Surrounded by nature. A quiet spot with no other picnic-ers. Temperature in the mid 70s with a nice breeze. For my outdoor man, it doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why I Love Him

That handsome man in the picture has a birthday tomorrow. He turns 42. I can tell you that because he and I were both born in the same year. My turn comes in November. I always was attracted to older men.

I heard a quote the other day, advice for teenage girls. I thought it was pretty smart.

"Don't marry a man unless you'd be proud to have a son who turned out exactly like him."

No one gave me that advice but I lucked out anyway. The man in that picture makes me smile, and more importantly, makes me laugh, on a regular basis.

The little boy in the picture is not our son. He is a preschooler who belongs to one of Hubby's co-workers. But the great thing about my better half is that he can bend down and relate to a three year old as easily as he grabs the car keys and takes the teenage Daughter out for driving lessons.

And he balances a stressful work environment, fighting for the causes of environmental issues all day at work, and then somehow has something left over to give us when he comes home.

He's not perfect, of course. But then again, neither am I. And knowing he puts up with a lot of 'stuff' from me, especially with my health issues, makes me a lot more willing to overlook his faults.

We have several friends going through painful divorces right now. It makes us ask each other, "Are you okay? Am I okay? Are we okay?"

And I am pretty sure the answer is yes. Because he is my friend first. And I love going through the years of my life with him by my side.

So happy birthday Hubby. Here's to about fifty more years of love and laughter and bugging the heck out of each other.

I love you more than you'll ever know.

A Change of Mind

I had an idea last night, as I was drifting off to sleep. It has bugged me all day so I started some preliminary research.

I have finished the latest edition of the memoir I am working on. Its working title is Just One Foot: How Amputation Cured My Disability.

That's how I really feel. I feel like I was disabled before my surgery and now I am able.

Before my surgery I had a handicapped hang tag in my car and used it all the time. Before my surgery I avoided long walks, meaning I missed out on hikes in the woods with my kids. Before my surgery I had to be strategic about how many steps I used in a day.

After my surgery I was not only able to hike, I learned to ski. After my surgery I let my handicap hang tag expire and it's been two years since I've had a current one. After my surgery I don't even think about how many steps I'm taking. I do what needs to be done and I have no pain at the end of the day.

Many people see my artificial leg and put me in that disabled category. But in reality I am quite the opposite.

Since becoming an amputee I have heard about and met many people who also chose their amputations. Most had injuries that were never going to heal right and their prognosis was a lifetime on crutches or with a cane. And a lot of pain. So they did what I did and traded in their flesh and bone for titanium. And they got their lives back.

The problem is this: Doctors still don't get it, for the most part. Amputation is seen as failure. When they have tried every other surgery possible, which sometimes means years in and out of the hospital, and they are ready to give up, they offer amputation. But maybe, just maybe they need to see amputation for what it is - a way to get back to an active life when the chances of healing that limb are slim.

I had to beg my doctor to do my surgery. And I had been turned down by many other doctors when I asked for it. Their stock answer, "We don't cut off a leg with a pulse." So I was stuck on the couch the rest of my life, which would lead to gaining weight and more health problems. But my limb had a pulse so there was no reason, in their malpractice suit minds, to cut it off.

I would love to educate the newest orthopedic doctors. The young ones who still have open minds. The ones who grew up with video games and rapidly changing technology. They are likely to 'get it'. They are likely to understand that the way technology in prosthetics is advancing by the day, many times it is a much better option than withered, useless real limbs.

I would like to tell them my story and let them know there are many others like me, who got a better life because of high tech prosthetics. Because some day they will have a patient come into their office, frustrated by a limb that is not responding to repeated surgeries. And they will have the opportunity to give that patient his life back.

But I don't really know where to begin in my quest. I may start writing a smaller book, something that could hopefully be listed as required reading for orthopedic doctors in training. I will contact medical schools and see if they would even accept such a thing. I will pick the brains of my friends who have had medical training.

I don't know where it will end up. But this idea, that the new docs could learn a new lesson from an old amputee, will keep simmering in the back of my brain. And if you have any advice or thoughts on the matter, feel free to let me know. I'd love the guidance.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And Now She Has Keys

Okay, so how surreal was it when today, I found myself sitting on a hard bench in the hallway of a government building, trying to snuggle my long legged 7 year old Baby in my lap, while we waited patiently for Daughter to take her drivers test?

Was it fifty or a hundred years ago that I was seeing her off to kindergarten?

Actually she only has a beginners license, which in New York means she can drive only with an adult in the car and only during daylight. After twenty hours of this 'teaching', if we all survive and have not stopped speaking to each other, we will go back in and she can take a real driving test and get her full license.

Hubby was much more excited about letting her get out on the road. All afternoon I put her off, telling her we'd do our first driving test 'tomorrow....', which in my code language meant maybe six weeks from now, maybe seven...

But he jumped right in and offered to take her tonight. Right now. I guess it will be a good bonding experience for them. I reminded her that he was actually letting her get out on the road TODAY so she should be thankful (code word for respectful and patient as he explains things to her that she will surely feel she already knows.)

They are out on the road as I type this. And I am online trying to figure out how to add her to our car insurance.

The beauty of it is, in six short months we get to start the whole process over with Big Boy, when he turns sixteen.

It's a whole new world my friend, a whole new world.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Monotonous Monopoly

I know it is very un-American to say so, but I really don't enjoy playing Monopoly. I'm not a competitive person by nature and have the attention span of a six year old, so the long process of buying from, selling to and smearing your own family members for hours at a time just doesn't appeal to me.

But my kids love it. And Hubby loves it. And it provides a nice long time where they all can be doing the same thing. Building family memories and all of that. It is one of the few things that the seven year old can play against the sixteen year old, and sometimes even win.

So I provide snacks, and take pictures, and pat myself on the back for having four children.

It means there are plenty of people to circle the board without me having to be involved.

Male Bonding

I love this picture. To me it represents boys. And men. And how down deep grown men are still part little boy.

The background story: It was once again time for Hubby's work picnic. Hanging out with a bunch of his office mates who we only see in the heat of the summer, under a city park pavilion. We share hot dogs and drink gallons of cold water and try to organize games that everyone can play.

Hubby is put in charge of recreation every year. Maybe because he has the most kids of anyone in the office and we have all the gear and appropriate sports balls.

But beyond the regular stuff, like kickball and volleyball, every year they must, must, must do water balloons. Nothing more fun that hurling a water bomb at the guy you call boss every other day of the year.

For an hour my boys were at the kitchen sink. Filling tiny colored balloons with water and placing them carefully in the tub. Half the fun of water balloons, I'm convinced, is the filling up part. You get to plan and scheme and brag about who you're going to get and how you're going to get them.

Fortunately my boys did have fun with the process. Because once we got to the park we were informed that water balloons were not allowed in that park. Unless you picked up every speck of balloon out of the grass afterwards. And that seemed like way too much work for the few minutes of fun.

So the huge tub of balloons ended up back at my house. And for the next few days, the neighborhood friends got a nice wet surprise when they dared to ring the doorbell.

All Night Long

Who says summer is a time for relaxing and goofing off? When you love to run, like my Big Boy loves to run, you sign up for things like the overnight fun run.

Twelve hours, teams of racers, whoever survives and gets the most laps, wins.

And this sounded like a good idea to my boy.

In the end he did survive. And his team actually won. But there were no trophies since one of the last minute members of his team was the girl who had planned to make the trophies while the race transpired. Instead she was taking her turn at the laps.

So they went home tired and happy. With only bragging rights to hang on the wall.

Together they ran 113 miles in the course of that 12 hours. My boy ran 11 of them. Their times averaged between 6:08 and 6:30 for each mile. All in the overnight hours.

So who says summers are just for goofing off? Some kids take the opportunity to run all night long.

Winning Moments

If you are a seven year old boy, you love to run. If you are seven years old and watch your teenage brother run exciting races for his high school track team, you suddenly understand the bigger picture. About being the fastest. And having trophies and ribbons to clutch in your hand on the car ride home.
Through Big Boys track team we found out about a community track meet that takes place every Tuesday night through the summer months. Every age group is accepted and encouraged. It is all about the joy of racing.

From the three year old 100 meter race to the mile long race that puts my fifteen year old up against a man who looks to be in his seventies, everyone has a great time.

As a person who lost the ability to run about the time my memories started, I am fascinated by the rhythm of running. I have never known the feeling and take great joy in watching my boys do it so effortlessly.

I love that my Big Boy has a competition every week to keep him in shape for the autumn track season. And I love that my other two boys get to be in their own track meets and experience the fun of running track, years before they are eligible for the high school team.

It is inspiring to watch heat after heat and see families rally together to cheer on whoever decided to step up to the starting line.

The ribbons are just icing on the cake.

(And just in case you were wondering - no, besides using it as a useful tool for avoiding a house fire or preventing her hair from getting wet in a downpour, Daughter sees no real value in running. She is athletic but not competitive. So the track meets have become a guys event in this household.)