Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Merry and Colorful Christmas to you!

The presents are wrapped, the house is clean, the cookies for Santa are baked and the To Do list is dwindling to "Cooking for Christmas brunch". And watching the weather. And putting on our  Roll-With-It Vests. It seems we are having a bit of a winter storm, now rain to become snow at some point in the not too distant future. This does put a bit of a wrench into our plans, but the holiday isn't entirely controlled by us.   It's God's gift to us, so I have to trust that He knows what He's doing.

I can't say that I have been a big ol' bag of jolly this year. I get blue every Christmas. I know it's coming, and deal with it, but that doesn't change the feeling. Because of choices that we have made we live far from the family I was born into. I miss them and the traditions of my Connecticut childhood. It's not possible to have it all, so I try to fake it til I make it.

 I smile and list all the wonderful blessings that I do have.  Eventually the Dark Navy Blues fades to Cornflower, then Light Sky. I can manage Light Sky Blues. Hallmark commercials won't make me cry with Light Sky Blues. I don't want to sit on the sofa watching Happy Ending Lifetime Movies with Light Sky Blues. I can get on with my daily chores and responsibilities and life. I can be the happy mom decorating the house with silvers, reds and golds.

I know that without the Deep Navy Blues I can't appreciate life. I want to live a life of all the colors, the icky and the glorious. The rainbow of emotions is what make life interesting and comment worthy. It's how we learn and grow.

Today I wish you a day of  Warm Golds , Familiar Greens and Cheery Reds. I wish for you the color  of hope that  I see when I read this:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas!!!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Making a list ,cutting it twice

I have this theory. That you can avoid having one of those out of control lives where you are merely treading water trying to survive instead of floating luxuriously. To achieve this lofty goal, to be able to enjoy the life you have, to savor each bite, all you have to do is be willing to prioritize and cut your to-do list. This theory states that if a high quality of life is what you are after, a simple snip snip to the list will give you that. Life enjoyed, instead of life survived.

It's only a working theory and a sucky one at that.

We do cut our list. When Noah said he was scared of Santa this year and didn't want to visit  him -- snip! We sent Santa an email instead. When we got two activity invites and we coulda done both, but it woulda been rushed...we snipped the second one that came in. When I found a great teacher gift from a crafty woman I know, I dropped " Bake Goodies" off my To Do list. All pretty much guilt free.

But it's Christmas time. Busytime. Mommy Crunchtime. Somethings can't be snipped. Some activities MUST be done. All three of the kids have parties and programs at different times. Luke still has basketball practice. homework still needs to be done. Laundry still is created. We still need to eat. Gifts to faraway family and friends need to be purchased, wrapped and sent. Gifts for those here need to be delivered. There are people we must see, places we must go and the pace is quick, and deliberate. I am enjoying the season this year, but I can't actually say I am luxuriating in it.  Thankfully my snipped To Do list is providing me with a floaty and I can easily handle and appreciate the pace.

I'm sure you are the same. You have similar To Do lists. Maybe you WANT to do it all. More power to ya! But, I'm sure you will understand  why the last time I was on here was right after Thanksgiving. For your viewing pleasure, here a few pictures of life since then.

May all of you be able to snip your lists without guilt and enjoy this time of the year!
We decorated the outside of the house

Got some livestock

Beks had her first middle school dance

We got the house ready for Christmas as we celebrate Advent!

Sure there are more, but what will I have to talk about the next time if I show you them now??

Monday, November 30, 2009

On Being Thankful

This past week saw us celebrating Thanksgiving. Nothing unusual about that but the holiday does force us to stop and think of things that we are thankful for. Children, health, family, faith, warm house,balanced checkbook, clean clothes, full table... sounds pretty common. Not that there is anything wrong with common. Common is sometimes very, very good. As is the case with my Thankful List.

This past week also had another celebration that most people do not stop to do anything for. Heck, most years we don't even stop to do anything special. But that is what makes me add yet something else to my Thankful List. This past week Brian and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary.

Ours is not one of those love stories that cause people to stop and take note. Heck, most people who watch us together might even wonder WHY. What did we see in each other all those years ago? Here is our story:

Brian and I met at work. We both had similar positions in different parts of the country. We worked in Marketing for Encylopaedia Britannica. Not sales, but we created sales opportunities and lead generating situations as well as planning educational and community building events in shopping centers. Spelling bees, Safety Cities, Story Times.. we would trade out high quality events for sales space in the malls. The hours were long, the travel was extensive and the position attracted 20 somethings who liked to get out of the office.

Brian had been promoted to a regional position, and I followed with my own promotion and took over part of his territory. My following meant that I had to move from Connecticut to Pittsburgh, PA. Brian was in Chicago. In my move I not only left behind my family and the area I had grown up in, but also the serious boyfriend that I had for 3 years. He was non-relocatable. Nor was he interested in a long distance relationship. It's safe, and simplest, to say that this  broke my heart. Brian was a nice voice on the phone who patched me back up and made me see that I wasn't broken. I had value.

He was in Chicago, I was in Pittsburgh and we often had dates at National Marketing meetings. Most of the time, however, was spent on the phone. After the first phone bill we had to decide if this was a long term relationship worthy of the expenditure. We had a few weekend dates, then he came to Connecticut for Christmas with my family. By then we knew that we got along, were compatible, were at the same point in our lives and, yes of course, we were in love. I moved to Chicago, got a job that didn't pay nearly as well but didn't require travel. He made room for me in the bathroom and gave me half the closet.

Our first official Date was November 16th, 1990. We were married the following November. He was 26, I was 28. We settled down to a very tumultuous first year, which was followed by several more without the drama before Bekah was born. And Brian got downsized for the first time. But not in that order.

The rest, as they say, is history. The 18 years since we have gone out once for our anniversary, to celebrate the completion of the first rocky year. I guess the following years were not rocky enough because we never did anything except exchange cards.

Up to this year. I can't blame a rough year, we didn't really have one. But this year, for some reason, Brian decided to break his no-gift streak and actually put thought into something for me. A three part gift signifying our life together. He is not experienced in gift giving, so if I tell you what it was you might not think it all that smooth. But to me, it was very sweet. Very thoughtful. Very loving. It made me very thankful.

Happy 18th, Brian.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Picture Really Does Tell A Thousand Words

Recently I was asked to become a Featured Blogger on  . In my world this is a pretty awesome occurrence. I had been submitting blogs on that site for awhile, as well as being an active member since the site went up two years ago. I was sick when I was asked and wanted a few days to think about it. Once my fever broke, my response was a calm and professional " Hell to the Yeah!!" I will be blogging there every Friday at noon.

My elation was short lived. The site admin wanted a picture of me and the kids. Fortunately my kitchen is the same color blue as the backgrounds of the other Featured Bloggers so I thought Brian could take the shot at our convenience.

Nothing about this was convenient. It was another example of one of those ideas that sounds good in my head, but when it comes time to do it, an abysmal failure. It is also a prime example of how what is just beyond the frame of a picture, what you don't see when you look at the smiling faces, tells the true story.

Back in the day I ran a small chain of portrait studios. I used to say " we only need one". Sure, there might be 100 proofs of the same collection of people, but how many will someone actually print out? One. One out of 100 has to be as close to perfect as you can get. One out of 100 has to show the image you have in your head of how your family looks.  Let me start with our One.

This is the first one we took, checking the lighting to make sure there were no shadows.

Noah isn't smiling because I just had to trim his hair out of his eyes. Noah isn't dressed because I have not ironed his shirt yet. Luke and Brian were at Luke's basketball practice. This was after the dinner dishes were cleaned up, Beks and I had taken showers and done our hair, and I had rearranged the kitchen so that we could get enough plain wall to pose all of us.

When the boys came home, we put on nice shirts and squeezed into our little corner. Those are cats on my jammies. It's a joke. I am not a cat person.

Ever smell an 11 year old after a day at school and 2 hrs of basketball practice? Ever smell one who then decides to let loose a forced giganto toot just as he sits down next to you in tight quarters? I am smiling because I pinched him.

 Whole series had to be eliminated due to one person. Usually Luke. Here he decided to haul out his Square Smile.

                        This is nice, Noah's Lookie My Boogie Face and Luke's Square Smile.

Beks seems fairly consistant.. but I was cramping up, Luke was getting tired of Daddy telling " No Square Smile!" and of course, someone has to blink. I might add, that Brian taking a picture out of focus with an auto focus camera is really an awesome trick.

He's 4.  4 is not a quiet age. ' nuff said.

Nor is 4 a great age to be asked to sit still and look forward for nearly an hour.

 That's right. 120 frames, and three times we sat back down after looking at a collection where " we surely got ONE", and didn't. Three times where Luke ate something messy as Brian and I uploaded and eliminated poses. Three times putting Noah's shirt back on. The One was frame #81.

 It was past Noah's bedtime, heck, it was nearly my bedtime before we decided that we had one. One frame that showed the image that we have of  most of our family. The Composed Mom,  The Pretty Teen girl, The Loving Tween boy and the Sweet preschooler.

The rest of the session told the truth. And now I share it with you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Perfect Illness

In a Perfect Storm, forces align to create an unusual situation, one that is unreplicable. One strange thing on top of another occurs and the end result would be astonishing if it were not so bad. We stare in awe, knowing that this is the one and only time we will ever witness such a phenomenon.

This past weekend I experienced The Perfect Illness.

Drama much, Susan?

In the middle of last week I began to have a sore throat. Then a headache. Then I was a little tired and stuffy, but it was tolerable. Until it wasn't.

Thursday night the body aches and fever started.Sleep wasn't something I wanted, it was something I needed. Brian, who has the symptoms of H1N1 taped to the medicine cabinet,diagnosed me. No swabbing needed.

In the past, whenever I have been sick, I pretty much continued most of my chores and responsibilities. Moms don't take breaks. Brian helped when he could, but his job was outside the home.

Now the kids are getting older. They can now help out. This go around, Beks and Luke took on some extra chores. They helped with cleaning, laundry and cooking.

Brian has an unusual job, and while it isn't slow at this time of year, his schedule now can be a bit flexible. He was able to take Noah to work with him on Thursday and Friday. We decided that I could be sick for three full days- Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We added Sunday as a final recoup day , just in case. Schedules were moved, compromises were made and all I had to do was sleep through the plan.

Friday is my normal weekly shopping day, but Brian took care of that after he dropped Noah at school. My only job was to sleep. Which I did very well. Laying still on my sick couch, pot of tea and phone within reach I lay still and drifted in and out of sleep. Moving hurt. I made a pot of chicken soup ( easy version.. broth, noodles and veggies- 15 minutes done.)I filled a pitcher with one of those weird beverage concoctions that only sound good when you are ill. This version: ice tea and orange/pineapple juice.

We had taken on house and dog sitting for someone we know very well in our town. On Friday night Beks and I moved into the house. She would help out with the dogs and I claimed my turf, draping the living room sofa with my sheets and blankie. Ok, come on, we all have a blankie, right? Maybe it's a well worn quilt, cherished crocheted afghan or , in my case, a soft fleece king size blanket.

Mid afternoon on Saturday I turned the corner and began to feel well again. You know, Saturday? Day 3 of 3 scheduled? This NEVER happens! I am the Plan Q girl, Plan A working? I always wondered what this felt like.

What did it feel like? The weather was stunning here this weekend. I took the dog for a short walk, and sat on a sunny porch and read a book in silence. The house is beautiful, quiet and spacious without any other people there. There was no lingering projects, no "To Do When I Feel Better" list staring at me. Full offering of satellite TV was at my fingertips, stocked fridge within a few feet, and my blankie wrapped around me. My daughter getting me drinks, checking on me but mostly just keeping to her self.If you have to be feeling like crap on a stick, this was the place to do it

What did it feel like? It felt like a sick spa.

Sunday I felt better with each passing hour. My coloring returned, my aches diminished and I only took one hour long nap. I vacuumed the house,did our laundry including washing my blankie. I opened the windows, cleaned anything I had touched but really, took it easy.

Monday morning came like it always has, early. I roused the girl-child, and got her to school fed and with a lunch packed by 7:30. When we got into the car, I honestly couldn't remember driving it over. That was a bit scary, but now I felt refreshed and energized and ready to face the week.

What did I walk in on at my own home? The boys had been bachelors all weekend,I thought I was going to walk in on the remnants of the party.

But this is what I saw: The sheets had all been changed, the house had been vacuumed, and the bathrooms had all been cleaned. There was only one small load of laundry for me to do. As is his way, there was a list on the kitchen table of things Brian had noticed that I could fix or change or clean this week. When I got a chance. Overall it was a pleasant surprise. It was NOT what I had expected to see.

That was my perfect illness. Usually I write about common experiences in this space, but I doubt that anyone else could have this work out this way. Had I gotten sick at any other time the situation would be different.I would have been writing about being sick while shuttling kids, refereeing disagreements and how many times I was screamed awake with a "MOOOOM!!!"

Since I did not go to the doctor I can only guess as to what I had. There is much debate over the h1n1 vaccine. Should my family get it? Should we pass? I did not get the vaccine. But what I am fairly certain of is that I got this illness getting my children the vaccine the week before.I'm not sure if that is a PRO or Con arguement. Getting it, and not getting it, worked out fairly well for us.

Clear much, Susan?

Monday, November 2, 2009

And The Award Goes To....

This morning I am walking around the house, collecting anything Halloween. As a moderately conservative Christian I am conflicted with this holiday. I don't really like calling it a " holiday" even... let's go with "Community Event".

Part of me does not like the satanic influences present at this time of year, but the other part of me really likes the fun aspects. Candy, dressing up,cute pumpkin faces,and charming fall decorations make me a bit giddy. My mother was a costume designer by profession. Halloween put food on our table and sent me to college. Many years I worked in her store, dressing people for parties and trick or treating. It was fun, a happening. But now I see a little kid dressed like the devil, and I get sad. I believe the devil to to be very real, as much as I believe angels to be real. I do not think you can believe in one without the other.Thus the conflict.

My neighborhood generally goes all out. We live in a subdivision in a rural town. The " country" kids come here to trick or treat. Add the ones who already live here and a good chunk of the entire school district population is contained with the boundaries of our ' hood. This year we gave out close to 900 dum-dums ( one or 2 apiece). The streets are full of activity and lined with parked cars. Garages are decorated as haunted houses complete with smoke machines music and costumed adults. Some people are hosting fire-pit parties in thier driveways as they pass out candy. Anything that can bring that many people together in a spirit of fun and frivolity is good in my book.

Our compromise for the Community Event is that we don't do scary. Our kids don't' dress scary, our house is not decorated scary, and we have every light on possible to make it a beacon in the darkness.

So today, I am putting all the pumpkins away. The cheery orange luminarias that graced the porch will be put in a box until October 31st,2010. All that will remain are some autumnal decor that should carry us to Thanksgiving. But as I am packing it all away I realize that I was struck by some things that I saw this year. Other events have awards so I think I will pass some out myself. I mull over a few names ideas in my head, narrowing the titles to two. With much thought ( ok, not that much) I toss out " Boo Who's" because it just sounds sad.

Now I present to you the 2009 Halloween Wrap- Up Awards... The Boo!-bies!

The 11th Hour Award : Kate! At midnight on October 30th she actually thought about giving in and creating her Tween-age daughters costume change idea. It didn't happen, but she gets the award for considering it!

The Realism Award: Megan! Megan dyed her 3 yr olds blond hair red so that her Ariel costume would be more authentic. Not telling the child she was dying her hair made it all the more entertaining for this spectator. Even temporary hair dye takes a bit to come out. Now it's pink.

The We Are All In This Together Award: Christy! Christy posted on her facebook status that adult trick or treaters would be given adult beverages, all they had to do was say the words " trick or treat". And she did!

The Boo on You Award: Whoever those SEVERAL adults dressed in scary costumes were, that hid in the darkness waiting to scare my 4 yr old- who was CLINGING to my side. They got deflected with a very loud " No, Noah, ADULTS WOULDN'T SCARE A LITTLE KID!!!" but still, they wanted to pounce.

Cutest Costume and Give that Mom a Drink Award: Mari!! Mari hand made not one but TWO darling cupcake costumes for her twin 2 year olds. Totally adorable!

Go If You DARE- BWAHAHAHAHA Award: John and Mariam! For as many years as we have lived near them they have created an elaborate and completely frightening yard and driveway display. The detail is quite impressive. Costumed characters, chainsaws,sound effects and a creepy graveyard make thier house the most visited in the subdivision. I have no idea what kind of candy they give out because my kids walk to the other side of the street.

Spin It Award:Smiles Change Lives Candy Exchange. We had a couple kids collecting candy for this. For every pound collected, Ace Scale Company donated a dollar to Smiles Change Lives.The candy then went to troops overseas. I know a family who has benefited form this organization, their daughter received braces that the family could not have afforded.( and for the record, the kids who came by had TWO bags... one for themselves and one for the collection. I was ok with that!

The Tim Gunn Make It Work Award: Beks who pitched her " punked out country girl" costume idea for pure punk and sewed her own skirt at 3PM on Halloween.

The No Candy For You Award: The grown women dressed in scanky attire who came up to the door for candy. With no kids in tow. Really? Seriously? Come on!

Before Her Time Award: Me! When the older two were tots I dressed in costume every year. I was usually the only adult who did. This year, when I went dressed as a Mom, I saw more adults in costume than every year before combined. I'm not sure if that makes me ahead of my time, or just dorky. There is a fine line.

I have a few more decorations to box up, and I need to do a complete De-Doting and De-Reecing of the kids candy haul, but I think this year will go down as a very great Halloween. Congratulations to all Boo-bie Award Recipients!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

If you push hard enough, something has to happen

"PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH.." Said the man holding up my knees " Why is your face purple?'

" Because the last time I had a man down there screaming that, a baby came out!"

But this time it was the Physical Therapist attempting to realign my pelvis. The baby delivery was certainly quicker... even with the time I was in active labor for 15 hours.

I have been to physical therapy for a bit over two weeks now. The Knee- Hold-Pushfest, a checking of how things are going, some stretching pulling and prodding as well as 5 minutes of some warm ultrasound device is all that the rotating physical therapists do that I do not do at home. Each session they add a few more exercises. At first I thought it was going to be exercises for the PT location only. But no, they are for me to do at home. Yes, they show me the proper form, and give me a printout. It does not take me long to do them at home, under 30 minutes.

I do not have the greatest track record of being self motivating when it comes to exercise. So far I have done them, oh, 90% of the time. The idea that strengthening my core ( oh yeah, I sound so sporty don't I?) will help to support my newly straightened pelvis and keep it that way. Further theory says that this all will help relieve my old lady ailments that I don't like to talk about: sciatica and bursitis. I get rid of those,and keep up the hair coloring, I could lie about my age. I mean, if I was so inclined.

Starting today I am down to one pain med at night, and two anti inflammatory. De-drugging myself is one of the biggest motivations I have for doing those exercises. That and, as a nifty side affect of this whole thing, I have lost a chunk of weight. Those exercises have to help out with that, too. Whittle my middle. Just in time to wear those baggy sweaters all winter. yay.

So I keep pushing on at physical therapy. It's not that bad, seems to be helping and only once did I feel any pain from my sessions. That was the other day when the two receptionists ( who I had seen last week as well) were talking about how they were battling H1N1 all week and spent the weekend sick and still didn't feel so great that day. I hope this development doesn't have me pushing fluids in the near future.

For those of you who have wondered where I have been, I had the pleasure and honor of sub blogging on my favorite moms site, for my Pal Jennifer Brown the past couple of weeks. I have yet to master the learning curve to put a link on here...dangnabit..well I did. It was fun. Go there to read them, or just trust me on it.

Also,I will admit it. I have been lazy. I don't know if it is the weather,the beginning of the hibernation season, added exercise,or the schedule juggling that was necessary to fit in these therapy sessions. Whtever the reason,I have been lazy. But I will push on. Push it, push it real good...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back to Back

Tomorrow I go for my first physical therapy session. At last count I had about a dozen different ( or similar) offers to whack my pelvis back into place. How kind. I think I'll go the physical therapy route for now, but I'll keep your suggestions in mind.

The current meds seem to work ok. I trade full pain coverage for full brain function now that I am off the vicodin, but it's a price I am willing to pay. I need my brain to work properly. It lets me handle things like this morning.

I came in the house, after dropping Beks off at school, to find Brian in full rant about the furnace. He told me yesterday that it wasn't working right and to listen to it during the day, which I did. And it functioned properly all day. However, not this morning. Now we had no heat.

It's not that it is bitter cold out, it's 41 degrees right now. But a broken furnace, one that keeps running but not engaging the fan, is not something we like to wait on. All things house are my domain. Clogged toilet to appliance repair-- my job. A hook rips out of the wall- I repair it. A cup of cocoa drops on the carpet? I haul out the cleaner. Lock repair, wall painting,computer rebooting, new microwave installation- all these things are on my Job Description.

Calling the furnace repair guy is also my job.. and normally I would do it when Brian was gone, but he was still here. I wanted to get on this as soon as possible and 7:45 AM was good enough for me. But apparently Brian was not satisfied with the description I was giving the man on the phone. He kept yelling the words he wanted to hear. While he was sitting on the can.With the door open. 10 feet from me.

" The heat pump isn't working properly, and the fan on the AC unit won't shut off but the furnace fan won't run" I said.


" I turned the thermostat to " emergency" but the furnace isn't clicking on" I said trying to walk away from the powder room.


Then the guy on the phone totally cracked me up: " wow, your phones are great I can hear everything!"

But he sent a guy out right away. The same guy that came a month ago as I was puking my guts out in the kitchen sink. The part was under warranty and within an hour we had heat again.I just have to wonder what our file says . Maybe " Crazy family but pay on time".

Brian was also upset because he has had to log onto his AOL account all week. For some reason his cookie keeps getting deleted.. but I can't explain this to him because he doesn't understand it. He wants to sit with his coffee, after doing his morning Bible reading, and check his email. Apparently typing his password is an added step he doesn't want. I don't use AOL. It isn't Susan Intuitive. I can't explain that either because he likes it, for some reason, and wants it to work the way he wants it to work when he wants it to work. " Get 'er done, Bunny."

* pause to explain.. That is my family nickname, given by him many years ago because he thinks my feet in socks look like little bunnies. I don't see it, I have very small feet and bunnies have proportionately large feet, but it stuck and now everyone uses it. Not you. Please don't."*

The other drama I was juggling is that Noah seems to have picked up a cold somewhere. I say that like the source is a mystery but if I was a Betting Mom I would narrow it down to his first statement when I picked him up from school the other day. You know, his first day back after being sick for 2 weeks ? He gave me a big hug and screamed " Lana sneezed in my FACE!" ( he obviously gets his sense of subtlety from his father). Now we are on day one of a cold. The day where he is a bit tired, a bit grumpy , a bit sneezy and a bit dopey. I hope we don't have to throw in another dwarf and call him a Doc. I probably would have kept him home even if I wasn't opening the door for the furnace guy at the same time I should have been driving him to study the letter B and cough into his sleeve. Not a big drama, but if he gets worse, and really sick again, it will turn to big drama.

But I get to escape tomorrow to go to Physical Therapy. Right at this moment it sounds like a trip to a spa. Kid free, me and paid strangers concentrating on my problems. I suppose that tells me I need to get out, need to distance myself from My To Do list of home repair, child raising, and husband PMS wrangling. But doing something to help stop my pain so I can fully concentrate on, as well as develop, the more interesting things in my life will be as refreshing and renewing as a spa day.Of course I have never been and will probably be moaning about it in a day, but let me live with this image for now. Tomorrow I get to get back to my back and the promise of that fills me with hope. Hope that I get to scratch that project off my To Do list!

Friday, October 9, 2009

A quick update and a new working theory

Brian and I met with the neurosurgeon the other day. We went expecting to find out when my surgery would be and exactly what it entailed. We got neither.

What we did get was good news: I didn't need surgery just yet. Maybe not for a very long time. This guy thinks my pain is being caused, not by the tumor living in a sea of nerves in my back, but by a pelvis out of whack.

I have to take pain medicine to drive, and Brian doesn't drive too well so I took a vicodin before I drove downtown. This got me there without pain, but it also made my inner gears not move so fast. I couldn't wrap my head around this, how is my pain going to stop? Who is going to make this all better? Brian and the doctor seemed to speak the same language so while time was moving at a snail pace for me, they were mapping out a strategy.

I will head to physical therapy and see if that alleviates my discomfort. I was not anxious for surgery, I don't like pain, and relying on others and all that surgery entails. But, if I'm being honest, having someone else do the work and fix me held some appeal. I would have probably been at the same PT place afterwards,and in quite a bit of new pain. I could see this when I took off my rose colored glasses, but the original pain would be gone. Of course as the doc described the surgery so many more things could go wrong I switched gears and embraced the new working theory: my pelvis is out of whack and physical therapy will get it back in place. I have to go for another MRI in 3 months to see how the tumor is growing, it will have to come out when it reaches a certain size. But there is a chance I might live a very long life and die a natural death before that happens. I like that.

And even in the the few days since I met with this doctor I have had numerous offers and guffaw presented methods to fix my pelvis. Hey, yeah, thanks for that.

So, off I go to work this new theory. I never have been to Physical Therapy before so I have no idea what to expect. This should be an adventure.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Confessions of a Germaphobe

Brian will be the first to confess that he is a germaphobe. He doesn't have to be accused of it, he admits it freely. He wears the title like a badge of honor, no, more like a shield than a badge. He feels that his germophobic tendencies keep him and those who he loves safe. He feels that he will do everything in his power to keep us from getting sick. This is his method, what he feels he can do.

He has taken it upon himself to place all over our house, Sanitation Stations. This one is between our kitchen and dining room. Wipe your hands, wipe a counter, wipe a nose, then your hands again, of course-- all you need is right here.

I'm pretty laid back, if he thinks that this is keeping us healthy, then more power to him. His peace of mind is worth it to me. He is the natural born worrier in our couple. Not arguing and allowing this is just my way of helping him worry just a bit less. Some years I think he is right. We have had years when we skip the majority of crud that is floating around. Some years.. eh, not so much. Right now I am winding up our family wide Crud Fest. Only time will tell if this is, overall, a healthy year for us.

In light of what seems to be a fact that the Crud Season is not only upon us, but a bit early this year, here is a tour of all our Sanitation Stations for your consideration. I'm not saying that living life afraid of a teeny germ is the way to go, and I can tell you that being obsessed about it is certainly draining. Moderation in everything. Brian doesn't know much about moderation. Before you roll your eyes, think of this: who wouldn't want a husband who goes into a project with such determination and all encompassing attention? For better or worse.

Most people have Lysol front and center in the cleaning product cabinet like we do.

And most people have soap dispensers at every sink. Ours is just everfilled.

And the Lysol in the kitchen cleaning cabinet isn't the only one in the house. Each toilet sports it's own bottle.

This was the result of the rotovirus that put a kidnergarten aged Bekah in the hospital for 5 days , and Luke in the ER during the same time. We are pretty sure she picked it up at school, computer lab actually, but " kills rotovirus" is right there on the Lysol label.

In the planning mind of the gemaphobe, mini-germx bottles should be plentifully stocked. This is the baking accessory/ germx drawer in our kitchen.

Exactly why this box of Wet Ones is kept in a bowl with bananas totally escapes me. Speaks volumes in my mind, but I suspect the reasons in his are very serious. It does make me laugh, though, so I leave it alone.

Every germaphobes house should have a back up supply of sanitation products. Since Mr Moderation is in charge of this supply, and often given free reign in Sam's Club, we have several stock up spots.

Under the powder room sink, for instance.

Brian does a fine job making sure that the kids have supplies before they head out the door. This is a permanent fixture in Luke's lunchbox.

Of course, the question remains " when they are out of sight of Daddy,do the kids use them?". The world may never know.

Even the cars are not free from germ warfare. This is my van, between the first row of passenger seats. The Wet Ones are for bringing into stores to wipe down carts, the pop ups are for germy hand messes, and the bottles of sanitizer are for squirting whenever the kids get in from school or friends house.

This is just a peek into the life of my germaphobe. You don't see the wiping down of door handles, backpacks and refrigerators. You don't see the man who thinks that his methods are keeping his family safe and healthy. Sure, it's kinda wacked. He might even fess up to it being a sickness. But if you ever meet him, you can shake his hand with the knowledge that you can't catch that sickness from him.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It’s all fun and games until someone needs a tumor out.

I’ve been joking about my back issues. Really, what other option is there? Complaining? Not really my style. If I joke about it there is that little shot of endorphins to go with the chatter. Free high .

I hurt. I have medication that takes away most of the hurt, most of the time. Sometimes some as yet unknown combination of meds and food and life make me almost pass out and toss my cookies. Complaining about it really isn’t going to change anything there, so I won’t complain, gripe , bitch, bemoan or yammer on about it. What I will do is tell you the story of the day I got my results. It’s a lesson in keeping your eye on left field. And Juggling.

Before the doc called me with my MRI results, Bekah had a well child exam. We go every year, on schedule. We see the same doctor unless someone has moved - us or them. We get most of the recommended shots and tests. It’s very routine and other than needles, no one has any issues with going to the doctor. This exam was no different. Routine Well Child Exam. I was bragging about how healthy and well adjusted Bekah was as she careened through adolescence. Totally positive, completely routine. Up to the part where the doctor had Beks touch her toes. I looked at my child’s spine and thought “ what the hell is that”?

There was a definite curve to her spine in a direction that it should not have been curving. The doctor was very calm ( I adore this woman) and said “ see this? Usually shows up in adolescence” then she used the word that was already going in my head along with the image of Joan Cusack’s character in 16 Candles..” scoliosis”.

I really do think I heard a screeeech of brakes. I actually said “ wow, didn’t see this coming.” The doctor sent us right off to get x-rays. Beks and I kept up the light banter of the day. I taught her my “ new adventure” theory for medical tests. She embraced it and knowing that she got to miss school all day made the whole experience pleasurable for us both. Weird as it sounds, getting her x-rays was enjoyable.

When I got home I did a quick internet search, and tucked the whole thing into “ wait and see” in my brain files. Then the phone rang.

There was lots of medical mumbo jumbo that I wrote down but didn't understand completely, but the line that stands out is ' nerve sheath tumor, 7mm, most likely benign". It's on, or right next to my spine from what I can figure out. Someone that I told , who is a doctor, said it was probably about the size of a pencil eraser. Other than a little bit of internet research, and then a moratorium on internet research, I’m hanging on the word " benign" until my appointment with a neurosurgeon in a couple of weeks. I expect to find out that it is the neuro equivalent of popping a zit. Badda bing, snippity snip, here is your bill. Have a great life.

I also expect that when I tell people I will get a whole list of people who know, or know of someone, who had the same thing. That it wasn’t a big deal. Happens whenever anyone has any medical problems. I do it myself to offer encouragement and proof that excessive worry might be unnecessary. Truth is, that from this seat, I have mixed feelings about this phenomenon. On one hand it’s reassuring to know that it isn’t a big deal. On the other hand , it’s my back, my surgery, and in my world it is a very big deal.

“ How do you feel?” Someone asked me that. I feel the same but, yet, a bit different. I still hurt but now I know it isn’t a herniated disc or a pulled muscle. It isn’t anything that is going to get better on it’s own or with ice or muscle relaxers or anti inflammatories. I physically feel the same, the same hurt, but knowing that there is a pencil eraser on my spine is a different feeling than a week ago.

I have a recurring memory of Brain telling me it was probably a pulled muscle, as in “ you just hurt yourself, lots of people do, where is my dinner, Edith?”. In a brief moment I thought “ it’s probably a tumor, wouldn’t that make you feel bad!”. Once he was teasing me and actually said “ what if it is a tumor? That would suck.“ That’s how I feel. I feel like when I didn’t know what was going on and let my mind wander over to Worst Case Scenario Land I saw one word there: tumor. And then the frightening fantasy became reality. It feels bizarre.

I still have not heard back on Beks scoliosis screen, but I will take that as it comes. Today I am nursing Noah who last night began a nifty “ Spike fever to almost 104, barf, barky cough, bring fever down repeat” routine. I sent Luke to school with a borderline sick cough . As parents it really is always something. Just gotta juggle as best as we can while looking at life through the filters that work best for us.

The night of the X-ray and the Phone Call I was tucking Beks into bed. She looked a little worried about the bizarre theme day we had. I gave her a kiss and sang one line from a song that got her smiling…“ baby got back..”. I think I have my filter in place. Commence juggling.

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Friday, September 18, 2009

One more hat for my rack.

Today I went for my MRI on this stinkin' back issue. Now it is more of a back/leg issue. The vicodin takes the edge off of the pain in my legs so that I can sit or drive for more than 2 minutes. It also is doing a nice job on stopping my monthly bosom pain, so that is a delightful added benefit.

I have never had an MRI before. When it comes to new-for-me medical procedures I generally put on my Adventurer Hat and go in brave and bold. I like to think of it all as a new experience and how can that be bad? Sure, it might be uncomfortable, but I try to talk myself into thinking of the discomfort as part of the experience. This manner of thinking has carried me through my first pelvic exam, child birth, broken bones and stitches. It seems to work for me.

I put on my adventure hat ( and Bruce Springsteen, Hard Rock T-shirt I thought it gave off a certain vibe) and went to the hospital. Adventurer Susan filled out her paperwork, took off all her metal jewelry, slipped out of her bra and into some jammy pants. Each instruction and step I took like I was learning how to rappel down Kilimanjaro. All very important to the experience.

The tech took me into the room, after I carefully selected my music. He tried to sway me toward Latino Classic but I held firm with 70's and 80's tunes. He asked if I wanted an eye shade so that I couldn't see that I was in such a tight space. I passed. Adventurer Susan didn't need no stinkin' eye shade. Even in the coffin they put me in. That is the first thing I thought when the table was slid into the MRI tube. Coffin. Great.

I sort of heard the first song in my headphones. The MRI machine is pretty loud. Carpenters. Great. She's dead. In a coffin. Just like me. The next song was Wind Beneath My Wings. Another chick in a coffin song. I didn't hear the other songs, so I can't tell you if there was some sick theme going on. The machine got very loud, and I took every ounce of brain power to go lay on the beach on St Johns. Then I prayed. I heard we should do that without ceasing. Sounded like a good thing to do at this point . It helped keep my breathing at a steady level and keep my head free of images of House episodes where weird things happen to people in machines just like this one .

Somewhere mid prayer I realized I had to pass gas. Big decision here. Try to keep it in and ladylike or let it fly? I opted for the latter. I had been told to lay still and sucking in toots requires some movement. I let it rip. Loudly. I even heard it over the machine noise. I did have a brief moment when I imagined one of the techs just outside of the machine. Certainly I wouldn't be the first, or last, person to have gaseous intestinal by-products during an MRI.

Then I did it again a few minutes later. This one was silent though. I took a moment to try and figure out how many ways to say " fart:--cut the cheese,anal salute, pass wind, poot, toot, stinker.. that's about how far I got before the tech announced through my headset that we were done and I would be slid out in a moment.
I was done and out with my souvenir disc ( " In case your doc wants you to see a specialists you will have a copy."). Back in the Mystery Machine and home. Another adventure completed. Except that it is Friday. I have to wait all weekend to hear back from my doc. And this, dear reader, is why they call us PATIENTS! I wonder if I can get a pith helmut through as a medical deduction?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not a whiner nor a worrier be

I try not to whine. Much

I am not a natural born worrier. Really.

Right this very moment I am going to do both.

Four weeks ago I was sitting on my porch, having coffee with a couple of friends when I felt a twinge in my back. I thought it was because I had been sitting in a cheap plastic chair for too long( I gave up the good rockers to the company.. I'm nice like that). I shifted in my seat, and finally stood up to relieve the pain. I didn't really give it too much thought at the time. However over the last few weeks I think of it a lot.

My friend Tracy, in jest, might say that it was karma biting me in the back. I had teased her about this very coffee meeting. She wanted to come but couldn't. I exploited that fact. We took that picture just to tease her. I'm not nice like that.

My friend Jennifer, also joking around, might say she would trade what happened to me over what was happening to her at that time. She was in lock-down at an area Walmart that had received a bomb threat.

What happened to me? I have no idea. But over the last four weeks I have gone from thinking I had pulled a muscle, to scheduling an MRI for later this week. After going my usual medical route ( posting on facebook and seeing what the old wives and others have to offer in the manner of therapies.. and trying THEM ALL), I finally went to see my doc. The pain was still in my lower back. She tested me for kidney stones and sent me home with muscle relaxer and anti-inflammatory meds. I took them for about a week. Well, I took them at times when I could be stoned for 4-6 hrs. Ok, I really didn't take too many of them. And really only recreationally. The only thing they did for the pain was make me not care that I hurt.

Over that week ,the pain began to spread from my back to my hips and then shot down my thighs whenever I sat for more than 2 minutes. This was no pulled muscle. I eat all my meals standing at the kitchen counter. I blogged once, twice now, kneeling at my desk. I watch TV laying on my stomach and spend the night waking up whenever I roll to my side or back. I never realized how many times I make the drive to my church and Noah's school. 12 minutes. Sometimes ten of those were spent with tears rolling down my cheeks.

When I finally fessed up to my friends the horror stories began. No one can tell horror stories like moms. We are jaded to most medical ailments, either having had them ourselves, or know someone who did. We flip medical terms and worse case scenarios as easily as we flip pancakes. They scared the poo out of me and made me worry. I called the doc back yesterday. After a very painful exam ( this from the woman who had a hair caught in the OBs speculum once... I know pain) she is thinking herniated disc and scheduled me for an MRI. She also prescribed another, stronger pain med.

I took my first dose and it sorta worked. yay! So I took a second dose before I went to bed thinking I might actually have a good nights sleep. And I did. It was getting out of bed that proved problematic.

I was dizzy. Not my usual, blond dizziness.. really woozy. (yes, I am blond. Dark Ash Blond.. that's what the box says!) As the morning progressed I added hot sweaty flashes to my dizzy fog. I got dressed because we had our annual furnace check up scheduled for 9 AM. Once I got through that I could lay down.

At 8:30 my body decided that the best course of action would be to vomit. Violently. As wave after wave hit me, Noah pulled on my shorts. " Mom, why is there a guy at the door?"

If anyone wants the number of the AC /Furnace repairman that comes early for appointments, give me a call.

So here we are, later that day. Of course sweats and vomiting were on the " CALL DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY" list of side effects. I spent the rest of the morning horizontal. I got up to make Noah lunch and ate a bagel. I've been flushing my system with as much water as I can. I have spoke to my doc and there is a reward waiting for me at the pharmacy: vicodin. That should hold me over til we can figure out what this is and take care of it. I'm pretty sure that is another med that will require me to time my Mom-taxi duties. I'm ok with that.

My goal for this little medical episode is that I come out the other end without any labels.I don't want to be thought a Whiner. Or a Superhero. Or a Martyr. Or a Worrier. I just want to come out with no more pain. Quickly. I hope that's not asking too much. And when I do, I'm going to have another coffee to celebrate. And maybe Tracy and Jennifer can make it into that picture.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Get Down, Get Grubby

When the kids and I arrived home from our vacation, I saw that the whole yard was brown. " It's just dormant" said Brian. My gut told me something different. Upon closer inspection I almost lost the contents of that gut. An easy tug and the brown grass came up like a carpet revealing the enemy. Grubs. The war was on.

Like most wars, this one began long before the first shot was fired. I'm the Lawn Master around here. I take pride in my attempts to keep a sea of emerald...ok, it's not that emerald. But it's my yard. Ours. No, mine. I fertilize it and weed it and mow it. My yard.

Last fall is when the back-story to this war began. I had decided that my yard would not contribute to global warming, and pollution and all that other nasty stuff that chemicals do to the environment. I was going to go green with my yardcare. It just sounds so wonderful. doesn't it? All natural, not harmful to kids or animals or our water source. Who doesn't want a green yard.. just for the color alone?

I began with internet research which led me to this site: Organic Lawncare for the Cheap and Lazy ( Bells rang, angels sang the whole thing made so much sense. I can do this!!

I didn't jump in 100%. I took the suggestions and did some test patches on my lawn. Compost, topsoil, tall fescue seed, I did what this site suggests and was rewarded with beautiful patches of perfect grass. How easy! I could do this for my whole yard!

Come spring, empowered by the winter of yard planning, I set forth to become the first on my block to have a fabulous, and eco friendly yard. I was even contemplating placing little signs like the yard care companies do " This fantastic yard was treated with tender loving care and no chemicals".

I laid down compost, and fresh topsoil and many many pounds of tall fescue seed. When that germinated and was mowable I put down organic lawn food instead of chemical fertilizer. My grass really liked it and was rewarding me. However, the dandelion ( those yellow weeds), henbit ( those little purple weeds) and bindweed ( that viney white weed) loved it even more. The theory that the grass would ultimately take over the weeds spurred me on... for a bit.

Finally, I could take it no more and fell off the wagon. I applied (GASP!) Weed-B-Gone. Weeds died. YAY! I applied more grass food. Then life got in the way of my best intentions and the yard was on it's own .

With all the work, all the product ,all the care I put into my yard I forgot one important element: I did not apply grub killer. I didn't even think about grubs. I was wrapped up in nurturing the grass. I was so involved in my image of a ( cue echo) Green Lawn . I had complete control over the life of these larvae ( of the japanese beetle) but I ignored them. And they rewarded me with destruction when I turned my back.

I spent a week tearing up the yard, peeling away the dead grass, hauling it away and dumping 30 lbs of grub killer on the remaining yard. The next week was spent laying grass seed and dragging sprinklers around until God helped out with some much needed, and nitrogen rich, rain.

Thankfully, the work that I had done earlier this year had enriched the soil and the grass was sprouting and growing to mowing length within a couple of weeks. Even though there are weeds present, I don't mind as much. I know that the soil is good, the grass is strong and eventually I will be rewarded with a pretty decent looking yard. Maybe not the GREEN YARD I had imagined and had been so wrapped up making happen. Definitely not in the time frame I had given myself. But the yard that will grow with what I have been given: the sun, the shade, the dirt, the knowlege I posses, the time I have to spend on it, the money I have to spend on it, and the energy I have to spend on it

Kinda like parenting, huh? How often do we get so involved in OUR image of what our kids can be that we ignore what is festering inside of them? We might be encouraging and nurturing our little ones to become the people we imagine, concentrating on what the neighbors see... but there might be some unseen element inside of them that will eat away all our misspent work. It is a lesson in looking at the whole picture, not just the visible.

We are always going to be slapped upside the head with crises with our kids. But if we lay the foundation, be ever vigilant, ever aware, do the work on issues below the surface we can turn things back on track. I probably won't be the path we had imagined, but it will be the best path for them, using the elements that make them up. They may have permanent scars, like the difference in my grasses, and the ever present weeds. But that is what makes them human. That is what makes them real. Just like us.

Deep thoughts conclude here. Now I present,for your viewing and educational pleasure...... the pictorial Battle of the Grubs:

" DIE GRUBS DIE!!" is what Noah kept saying as he picked up the gross, white larvae from the dirt I exposed. He would fill the bottom of his toy wheelbarrel with them, dump them on the driveways and stomp on them. Repeat. Part of me was disturbed that my young son was so violent-- but the bigger part of me was thinking exactly the same thing. DIE GRUBS DIE!

The largest patch on the front yard. Cleared, grub killer applied and ready for new seed. There are several smaller patches elsewhere in the yard.

Noah looking to make sure the grubs are gone. I laid seed, germinating fertilizer and straw that day. I watered it all in daily, keeping the soil moist.

God rewarded my efforts with a soft, day long rain. Did you know that your yard gets green after a rain because rainwater contains nitrogen? Not so much with hose water.

The first green grass shoots appeared within the week! I did a happy dance in the yard. It wasn't pretty. I also had to keep yelling " stay off the new grass!!!" to all the neighborhood kids.

Three weeks later, the new grass is part of the lawn... actually, the best looking part of the yard.

Another patch of new yard... already being played on by the kids.
About this time I was talking to my next door neighbor and told her the Tale of the Grubs. She laughed and said " I thought you were just doing another organic grass experiment." I might get that " this yard was treated with tender loving care" sign up one of these days. Maybe two signs. They would make a good goal marker for the kids games!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Coming soon to a page near you

As of this past Monday all of my children are back at school. Tiny Tot began his Pre-K year with very little fanfare. He did ' let" me take a picture of him at home before he headed off. He isn't wearing lipstick, he cut his lip playing wiffle ball with Daddy. (For those keeping score that is Wiffle Ball Injuries 2009: 2) He probably should have had a haircut, too, but we were so laid back about his first day of school this year, all he got was a new shirt and the things on the list the teacher hands out.

Our school district has had half day kindergarten forever. Since we moved here, 8 years ago, there have been rumors aplenty about full day Kindergarten. I have heard from a very good source that next year it might happen. I don't have mixed feelings about this. Yes, he is my youngest, the last child at home during the school year ( 2 full days and 3 half days now). But he's ready. I'm ready. I've been SAHMing for 13 years now. It's time. Time for what, that is the question.

At this moment I am hopped up on pain meds which allow me to sit here for a few minutes and type. I'm waiting lab results, and may just have injured my back. Talking. Who hurts themselves talking? I'll have to come up with a good story if that is it, because wow, not that interesting.

" I was having coffee with Sally and Skye and wrenched my back sitting on the porch."

This is AFTER my week plus spent restoring my yard. While I was on vacation Brian mistook Death by Grub for Dormant By August. I ripped up half our yard, hauled the debris away, killed the grubs and have replanted my yard. Without injury. I sit on my porch I get hurt? This is my life.

Oh, and Luke has Lyme Disease and my father is, right now, in the hospital with heart problems. No drama in this family.. nope. None here.

Anyway---- All I can offer up today is a list of topics I will be monologuing in the near future:

- My quest to find what the heck I am going to do with my time once all the kids are in school.

- A battle by battle description, of the War of the Grubs. I think there is a parenting lesson in that.

- My Oldest Child is a Teen. And it doesn't Suck.

- My Middle Child: Lovable Goof or Button Pusher?

-My Youngest Child: Where did you learn THAT??

- Halloween: Protecting my SAHM Cred by making yet another costume.

- Lots and lots of gushy stuff about the amazing people in my life.

- Rants about people who think RULES only apply to others. Or Drop Off Lane Drama

- My desire to get some sort of part time work so that I can afford a vacation next summer. We have tasted this life, and it is good.

- The many illnesses of the Family of a Germaphobe ( who already had us all get our flu shots).

Thank you for checking back in here. Like every other parent, I am amazed how quickly the " free" time gets filled up. The vision of me posting entries as soon as the kids went back, wasn't realized. What else do I have wrong???

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh, it's time.

Someone needs some schoolin'

Bek is trying on hairstyles and debating the merits of one style over the other: ” I like to look respectful for the first week as the teachers make their first impressions, and then I like to POP out the edge later in the school year...”

Luke is smelling his shirts, trying to find the one that has just the right “ Odor du Fifth grader”

Noah is telling me that he “ won’t be my baby anymore because I’m going to Pre-K..”

It’s back to school time.

The two oldest went back today. Noah will go back in a couple of weeks. Most years at this time I am more than ready to see them go. They are bored. I am bored. It’s hot. We ran out of activities a month ago and the start of school is a welcome event. Not this year. I actually have enjoyed their company this summer. We had so many more things we wanted to do that we never got around to. I thrived on the “ sure you can stay up until the end of this movie..” quality this summer possessed. We traveled, we recreated, we summered and I wasn’t ready for it all to end.

But end it must.

Yesterday, I followed the kids around and came up with a list of reasons why I am ready for school to start. The negatives of this summer full of positives. Things to prove to myself that we are all ready. Ready for schedules, and rules, and structure, and a life not centered around the kids if only for a few hours.

Why It Is Time:

* Mystery stains on the carpet
* Plastic wrappers in the oddest places... none of which being a trash can.
* Beds unmade mere minutes after being made
* Every TV set blaring Sponge Bob/icarly/Zac & Cody/Most Extreme/SpikeTV
* Luke mood swings
* Bek mood swings
* Mom mood swings
* The contents of the Craft Corner in the basement being hauled in a steady stream up the stairs, through the living room and out the door.
*The sound of the hose being turned on and Noah screaming “ LUUUKKKKEE! I’m getting Weeeetttt!”
*A non stop stream of really elaborate business plans to raise money so they can get( insert really pricey item here)
*Never being able to leave a room mid-All My Children.. because the channel will be changed. I really think that I shouldn't’t have to schedule my pee in my own house!
*Tennis Elbow from grabbing a kid about to leap off the porch railing.
*House shaking door slams
*The Nothing Chorus. “ We have nothing to do, we didn’t do nothing, what are we doing-- bang bang thud thud-? Nothing.”
*Realizing that I have not heard a peep from Beks for hours and finding her in her room, hiding behind her laptop-- where she was 6 hrs before not having moved at all. What is the appeal of Pixie Hollow? Anyone?
*The cornucopia of debris laying under the sofa cushions
* Running the dishwasher twice a day

So today came. And I have already had to refer to my list more than once. But Beks just got home, and Luke will be here momentarily.. I'm sure I can start a new list before dinnertime.

First day of 5th and 7th grade: 2009

Special Thanks for inspiration go to this pretty awesome blog:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adventure 2009: Post Script


All the luggage has been unpacked, the suitcases back in their basement hideaway. The souvenirs have taken places of honor on bookcases, shirt drawers, and, in my case, the garage. I collected reusable shopping bags from the many grocery stores we went to. Before you laugh, it makes a great reminder .. all have the store name or town someplace that is not where I normally shop. And, at 99cents, a frugal buy that can be used each week.

Shells, shopping sacks and t-shirts were not the only thing we brought back from our trip. Luke picked up a virus that slammed him our last day and for four more after we came home. He also had a weird reaction to some bug bites. That is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to recap our trip. The kid was a mess. So was my yard. Apparently Brian confused dormancy with death by grub. I have spent a good chuck of this week battling the grubs and fixing the yard.

We have been home for one week, Brain and Noah were very excited to see us. My Visa bill came in just days after we did, and thankfully, Brian was still in a honeymoon phase. My fretting for having gone over ( the ridiculously low) budget was unwarranted. He was ok with it. That was a surprise. Actually, the memories I have from this trip are all surprises.

*Luke did not travel well. He was out of his element, dealing with his first wave of teen hormones so most of the time I felt as thought I were trying to control him instead of enjoying things with him. I have overheard him telling people about the trip, and he is apparently a revisionist. Thankfully.

* Bekah, my worrier, loved everything. She thought she could imagine herself living everywhere we went and soaked everything in. Sure, she ate chicken ever single meal out, but she didn't complain.

*My dad waited until Day 10 before he actually did pull the car over. Instead of yelling like he had when we were kids he was silent. When asked he said" I am waiting for the back seat to calm down before I can safely drive." then more silence. oooh, that man is good. I'm gonna use that.

* That I really do like Chicago more than New York. And I am ok admitting it

* That I would feel guilty when I missed more than a couple days of blogging. I thought a few short postcard blogs from the road, but reading back it was more than I had expected. Posting meant more to me. The emotions behind the words were deeper than I had expected And that you followed the trip with us meant the world to me.

* The thing that struck me the most with a SURPRISE! was that even though I didn't have a lot planned other the where we were stopping, when things didn't go according to plan it was ok. Our group could roll with the changes and have more fun than we could ever have planned for.

Here are some snapshots of our trip, a final montage. Get your favorite vacation song running in your head and take a look at some of the things I will remember from this wonderful, special summer adventure.

Our first stop was the arch in St Louis..we didn't go inside but we sure took a lot of pictures!

Getting to spend so much time with my parents was my favorite aspect of the trip. We were living together and exploring together and I will cherish each moment.. even the not so great ones. This was mom and I on the Night of the Chipmunk:

Seeing people that I had not in far too long was one of the things I was most looking forward to, and it didn't disappoint. I think they were as excited to share their worlds with me as I was to see how they were doing. My college roommate , Sharon, and her husband Ford went above and beyond to make us comfortable.

Bek, Mom, me and Sharon ended a day of NYC sightseeing with a view of Lady Liberty from the NJ side. Sometimes you get the most out of an experience when you look at it in a different way than most people do.

When we went to Lake Winnipesaukee we got to see relatives that my kids had never met. My Aunt Mary, Mom, Cousin Carrie and her daughter as we waited for my uncle to bring his boat around for a ride. Carrie and I should get together soon to get our foot tattoos!

Beks never wanted to fish with Brian here in MO, but get her to New Hampshire and she caught her first fish ever.

Another first, the kids paddling in NH. I recall this as an activity they worked together to accomplish and with no fighting. A week later and I am already revising history.

In Maine, Luke, always an adventurous eater, tried his first Lobster coached by a Master Crustacean Consumer, Skipper Dave ( My Dad)

My mother realized, a year or so ago, that she had never mini-golfed. She rectified that situation then, but this was only her second game ever. She slaughtered us.

Each morning on the boat brought coffee and checking of the days news. This is me, just after posting a blog, my father and mother. Cheers to you, folks... and to YOU FOLKS for being a part of my journey.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Trains

It was the best of rides, it was the worst of rides....

When we were planning our trip we had to get from Boston to Kansas City. If we could stop in Chicago on the way back, all the better. Car was out unless we rented one since we had to leave the Volvo with my parents in Maine. Plane was an option, but that would be costly with a stop in The Windy City. Beks also isn't so crazy about plane travel these days. If getting her on a plane was anything like getting her an immunization, it would require 5 flight attendants, a pilot and a mom. Or a kiddie xanax. Then someone suggested train travel. Both Bek and Luke thought that sounded like a real adventure. When I looked into fares, there was no other option. Amtrak it is!

There was only one train from Boston to Chicago. It left at 11 AM. Or 11 and some numbers so just round it to 11 AM. I'm not mathy. I'm also pretty good at laughing at myself because those " some numbers" were :55. We didn't realize this until after all of us were loaded into the car at 5:30 AM for the 3-4 hour drive to Boston from Southport ,ME . No one was mad.. ok, the kids were mad, but kids moods can be bought with a hot chocolate and a glazed stick from Dunkin' Donuts.

Because we had extra time, we hit no traffic whatsoever. Even with Dunkin Donuts, Rebox, and Gas stops we got to South Station with almost 2 hours to spare. Boston is a great city. It has lots of charm, history, sights and activities. It does not have a street system that a visitor can easily understand. It had been years since any of us had driven there and we had to rely on Gypsy the GPS and her quick, one- shot directions. You had best be listening! Failure to listen results in a Gypsy tantrum of " Recalculating. Recalculating.."

We drove around the same " block" for a few laps. It wasn't a square block like in most cities, but more obtuse triangle. But this is Boston, one of the oldest cities in our country, who am I to argue math semantics? I'm not mathy, remember?

Finally we accepted two facts:
1-We had found the front door to the station,
2-There was no parking anywhere.
Mom and Dad couldn't see us off from anywhere inside. It was a rolling stop/toss stuff out the back/ hug/hug/ kiss/kiss/thank you/thank you... and they were gone. The kids and I were on our own, weighted down by too much luggage, on a sidewalk in south Boston. We were sad to see my parents roll away, but excited to see what train travel had for us.

A quick and easy check in, a bathroom luggage juggle, and a snack filled our time. Our train was finally being called and we hauled all of our carry -on luggage to the track. We were not traveling light like a lot of others that we saw. We had a bag of snacks, a sleeping bag, a lap top and a portable DVD player, clothes for tomorrow,toiletries, inflatable pillows, books, games... we had tried to think of anything that would make the next 22 hrs fly by in comfort. And all the stuff that made our car trip comfortable as well. We had a lot of stuff to make us comfortable.

Comfortable was quickly out of the question. The train was full, there would be no spreading out on 4 seats like we had hoped. The seats did sort of recline, but they were too close to the neighboring seats for comfort. Even with our train training of compact travel in the backseat of the Volvo we felt claustrophobic. We were fairly close to the two restrooms for our car, and a few cars back from the snack bar. We didn't complain because we didn't know any better. We thought that this was part of the adventure of train travel. As the trained rolled on, we rolled with it.

I won't lie: we had a few moments of groaning. When we sat on the tracks for an hour someplace in the woods outside of Springfield MA, for no announced reason. When we were only in Albany,NY 8 hrs later. When the woman in the window seat, next to my aisle one, insisted on getting up at EVERY STOP to run outside to smoke...all. night. long. When we got no wifi connection anywhere. When cell calls dropped at the most crucial moments. When 2 hamburgers and waters cost 20 bucks. When Luke's acid reflux had him barfing at 11 PM. When the cabin lights were not turned off , ever. When a conductor walked through the aisle yelling " Cleveland! Cleveland! Cleveland!" at 3 AM.

Mostly we just groaned and moved on. We were not going to be complaining travelers, we were on an adventure. When the bathrooms began to smell like port-o-lets at a hot summer outdoor concert, we waited until absolutely necessary to head back there. Then those bathrooms were closed down, broken,we walked back several cars to find ones that worked. We were tired and grungy when we finally pulled into Chicago, 2 hours late, 24 hours later. We felt like train travel survivors and I was secretly dreading the other train leg.

Three days later we boarded the next, and final, train that would take us back to Kansas City. The difference in trains slapped us upside the head. This train was a double decker and we were seated on the top level. The car was smaller, had fewer passengers, although it too was full. More storage, bigger and cleaner windows welcomed us aboard. It was newish, cleaner, better smelling. I couldn't even reach the seat in front of me there was so much room! Toni the Chain Smoking Seatmate would never have disturbed my sleep. As we left Chicago's Union Station behind we still had the greatest treats ahead of us. One car ahead to be exact. The observation car.

As we walked through the door that separated us from this nirvana on rails I thought I heard an angelic choir sing some heavenly notes. Bright lights, all windows, many tables and comfy chairs for the taking awaited us. Spread out, play card games, write, watch America roll by in bright sunny comfort. This was the Amtrak of the commercials. We saw cranes that filled a pond, a crop dusting plane that skimmed our train, and a perfect sunset. We took the stairs to the snack car and so many bathrooms we never saw anyone else use. There was a dining car that took reservations, and characters on the over-com giving us updates. If we had been on this train from Boston we would have arrived refreshed, energized and 5 lbs lighter from all the exercise we had.

But we didn't know better then. It's an analogy for life, isn't it? When we know better, we do better. We expect better. That is a rough paraphrase of Maya Angelou, but fits the situation. If we had taken the trains in a different order we would have known that train travel can be comfortable when we boarded the bus on tracks. We might have actually complained out loud. But life is about living and learning and moving on. If we had not taken this second train we would be sour on this method of travel. Now we are eager to do it again.