Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Ole'-Fashioned Country Christmas

This is the year of three Christmas celebrations for our family--celebration one in central NY at Matt's parents' home, celebration two at home (suburban CT) for Christmas Eve and morning, and celebration three at my sister's place in Boston. From country to city in four days flat. Here are some images of Christmas, country-style.


What is Christmas without an angel?

Fresh from a wild ride on the 4-wheeler, Kyra the dare-devil!

Self-portrait of my own Christmas cheer.

Spring melt, or just a moment of winter thaw?

Have a very, very merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Do you know what day today is?


Kyra, don't you realize this isn't just any day?


Lucas, wipe the sleep from your eyes!

Today both your grandfathers have BIRTHDAYS!

Whatever shall we give them?



An at-home haircut, a favorite of the men in our family???

Or perhaps a ride in the canoe???

Nah....too cold and snowy out there!

Strike a pose, give them a smile, and send those birthday wishes on their way!

Happy birthday to BOTH the grandpas on your shared, special day!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmastime is here....

Lucas and lights....could there be more holiday charm?

The angels meet at the tree--the consequences of a preschooler
decorating by clumping all ornaments into categories!

Kyra and Matt enjoying Grandpa's pickup truck,

after delivering another load of firewood!

A swirl of smoke rises from the chimney. Ah, warmth....

While a bit early for some families, the celebration is in full swing here in CT! Enjoy some images of winter and Christmas arriving to our home.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Giving thanks, all hour--day--year long

I'll admit it--I'm poor with transitions, particularly the little ones through which most people glide. Sunday afternoon to evening is tough for me, particularly after an extra long weekend at home. Around 4pm I feel my stomach drop a bit as I realize time is "running out"--time at home, that is. Though I love my work, I crave more time at home, and the Monday morning return to work always looms larger than it should.

It was looming particularly large when the kids began waking continuously from 2:30-4am early this morning. While Matt did all of the getting up, soothing and comforting, those constant wake-ups (resulting in Matt resting on the couch downstairs and both kids on top of me in our bed at 4am) gave me more than enough time to ponder that yes, indeed, Monday morning was very nearly upon me. And approaching Monday morning from a state of sleeplessness is all the worse, typically.

As is often the case on this blog and in my life, I decided on my drive in I needed to extend the Thanksgiving holiday....I needed to express my gratitude on this, a sleepy, stressful Monday. It's easy to say a grace of thanksgiving when surrounded by family on a warm day at home with a table full of turkey, gravy and corn casserole before me. It turns out it's easy on rainy Monday mornings as well!

In no particular order, here are some of the things I'm grateful for today....
  • the clever person who determined that in between the green and red lights there should be a yellow to provide ample warning to slow down--how many lives has that yellow light saved?
  • a steaming hot cup of coffee....a true pleasure this morning, in particular!
  • a particular stretch of road on my drive to work where the trees hang fully over the road--it feels as though I am deep in the forest, held in the embrace of the trees
  • having two walkable legs on which I carry myself to my office, and two workable arms that could load in all my bags of work this morning
  • leaving Lucas and Matt beside the Christmas tree this morning, snuggling on the couch as they read a book together
  • the deep sighs that both of my kids make periodically as they sleep
  • work that provides for my family, and in many ways inspires and motivates me....even on a Monday!

Now back to that coffee....enjoy the day!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stir crazy

The kids are wrestling in front of me, trying acrobatics perfected by a pair participating in the Macy's Day parade--an act far too advanced for my little ones. If I were smart I would have 911 dialed into the telephone just in case. Instead, I'm marveling once again (as I do any time I'm home with the kids alone all day) that Matt does this Every Single Day.

We're very different--if our kids were to depict for you "Mommy days" and "Daddy days," the pictures would be opposite in many ways. Matt's first instinct is to head outdoors. The kids dress themselves for the weather of the day, accomodating a span of some 80 degrees between their winter and summer playtime. Alternating between playing football with the kids and having an eye on them from a distance as he chops wood or rakes leaves, Matt thrives outdoors. It is now 4:45pm, and having had a day home with me, the kids have yet to see the great outdoors. I'm an inside kind of gal.

I suppose our instincts are similar, we just act on them in different domains. In between a few games of UNO, making collages with old magazines, and reading a Christmas story, I've managed to change all the beds, do a detailed vacuuming of all the upstairs and half the downstairs, put up the Christmas tree, and continually keep the kitchen table wiped down. Just as it is Matt's nature to shore up the outdoor resources for winter (the hunter in him, perhaps), I am continually cleaning a little here, neatening a little there (the gatherer in me, I suspect).

But I would be wise to follow Matt's example. My indoor kids are playing games that are better suited to the outdoors, and the volume level is rising by the moment. We're heading to a town celebration this evening for a parade and fireworks, and I can only threaten so many times to take this happy occasion away....off to the tub, threatening all along the way....

I asked both kids if they had something to add to this post. Lucas, always feeling guilty about some misdemeanor, immediately said, "Sorry???" Kyra's message is simple: "That's okay." You have to wonder about these kids!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wildly wide awake

Friday night is "movie night" in our home, and while this once might have included overpriced popcorn and previews too violent for open eyes, of late it has been movies like "The Rookie" or "The Muppet Movie" with microwave popcorn for four. If my week has been like most of my weeks are, about 15 minutes into the movie, I'm attentive and watching, and about 30 minutes into the movie, I'm sound asleep.

Being awake on this Friday as the clock pushes on toward midnight feels positively reckless....particularly when I need to be at work at 8am for a conference. But I'm awake, nonetheless, and wild though that concept might be, tomorrow evening will bring a nap, I hope. Matt and the kids are away, visiting his parents while I trudge through a variety of work and school events that would have me feeling like a poor, absent parent if they were home, but attentive and loyal to my employer with them away.

It's strange to be alone in the house. I'm never alone in the house. When I open the door at 5:30 or 6pm each evening, I see Matt typically standing at the stove, and the first child to see me yells, "Mommy's home!" and comes rushing toward the door for a hug. It is a moment of bliss in days that are sometimes stressful and long. So what to do when they are away and there are no sounds, no hugs, no dinner on the stove when I come in?

First of all, I attended a concert. It was more the type of concert I would have attended in college than now--Bethany Dillon, Sanctus Real and Steven Curtis Chapman. I've been a casual fan of the music of Bethany and Steven for some time now, though, and they were playing down the road for a more than reasonable price. I won't enter into the full existential crisis I experience when I attend so-called Christian events and try to determine my current fit in that crowd. I will simply say that I enjoyed the message of love--the message that right now in this moment I am being loved...you are being loved...we are all being loved. And I enjoyed that Steven was up there playing with his two sons in the band--the 18 year old on guitar and the 16 year old a maniac on the drums. It was a wonderful illustration of how we might grow and learn and change with our kids. It was a reminder that I really, deeply, truly love my family. As I drove home, I did something I almost never do--I spoke aloud to God. I asked God--whether Being, Force, Big Person on High, Bold Idea in my Mind, Energy, or Pure Love--to open my eyes wide to the gift of my family.

I returned home to a still-quiet abode--listening attentively for any scratching or scurrying to indicate that the mouse Matt cheerfully released from our basement earlier had returned. Luckily no sounds--and so far no mouse. (I told Matt he would return home to a feline member of the family if a mouse pops in for a visit while I'm here alone.) I walked down to the basement (showing the mouse I'm not afraid!) and noticed for the first time all the wood Matt has been diligently stacking in the basement to keep us warm through the winter. It is literally stacked from floor to ceiling, and with it, the woodstove hums happily of heat for the whole house. Signs of Matt's love for us and his care for our home are everywhere, but particularly evident these days in the basement. We have an extra refrigerator/freezer combo stacked with food primarily purchased by him to be prepared almost exclusively by him. Where piles of laundry could sit are stacks of empty baskets--the clothes are clean and put away. And yes, of course, there is all that wood--as much as my eyes could take in. God was answering my prayer--I was noticing, seeing, and fully appreciating this member of my family.

I came upstairs to write this tale of love, of prayers answered, of satisfaction for having what I have and being where I am, and suddenly an alert popped up to add my in-laws' Skype address to my contacts list. As I was writing about the bliss of this knowing and noticing, I actually had a chance to see and speak with my muse of the moment--and now my eyes are not only open, I am wildly wide awake. Noticing. Appreciating. Feeling grateful.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reach out and touch someone

Do you remember AT&T's slogan? With the omnipresence of cell phones, and the immediate access of text and instant messaging, the notion of an "old-fashioned" phone conversation seems horribly antiquated. And given that I have access to all of these tools at once, that old-fashioned phone call is rarely the intimate experience it can or should be. I have many friends with whom I'm speaking by phone, reading email, and sometimes even simultaneously glancing at a message on my cell phone.

Technology frustrates me, even as I rely on it for my work and personal connections. During a strategic planning meeting for the University yesterday, the dizzying array of future possibilities courtesy of and dependent on technology left me with a headache. I was ready to fold up all things digital and toss them in a bin for the rest of the day. (Notice that I still refer to the digitized world as something I can put my hands on and put away!) How fortunate I am that I didn't do so.

We've been experimenting with Skype (we're behind, I know, but it's "new" and fun for us!), typically speaking with my sister in Boston. The timing is ideal, as she is about to undergo radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer and will need to live in isolation for a time. Skype will allow us to "see" her each day, and brings the energy of our kids briefly into her home. While testing out a new microphone last night, we were able to be in her home--noting the clothes drying rack, looking with her for her cat, and catching her peering back at the TV. (Television is so 1980s, don't you think?)

We originally bought the videocamera in order to see my grandparents in Florida. They are living at 90 and 91, but my grandfather has cancer and is quite certainly dying, and we wanted to be more present to their lives than we are able to be via the phone. After "hanging up" with my sister, we gave a call to Nana and Father, as we know them. I originally tried via the landline, and my grandfather sounded tired....a tired that concerned me about what I'm missing in not being there now. But then we switched to the camera, and I could see him--could see that the exhaustion in his voice wasn't fully in his face, and could appreciate knowing that they are there, together, amongst friends, and alive for every minute they are given to be so. I loved blowing them kisses, sharing our mutual enthusiasm for a family visit coming up in January, and being in their living room for a few minutes.

The "bug" of being with family had bitten, and so we placed yet another call--this time to my sister-in-law and her family in Oregon. All four of them popped in front of the laptop, and when we confessed to missing a number of home updates in the four and a half years since our last visit, my sister-in-law picked up the laptop and took us on a refresher tour of the house. It was awkward at times (I was the only extravert in the mix of seven of us "talking" for an hour or so!), lovely to see them in their happy home, and a wonderful reminder that technology is only one part headache.

It's also part home.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Drumroll, please....

I've been thinking for a long time that I'd like to cut my hair short--perhaps the idea has been with me for years, but it has become more persistent in the past six months or so. Since the move I haven't had a regular hairstylist, and every random shop I would visit would find me face to face with another person who would smile, ask if I was really ready, and then proceed to just trim my hair. Today I was not going to take "No" for an answer! Thanks to Sue, I was feeling courageous and ready to listen to my own voice and reasons rather than the hairstyling naysayers I keep meeting!


The morning "before" look....





And after....




I love it! And perhaps by Friday I won't still walk by the mirror saying, "Huh??? Who is that?"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fall musings

Autumn is arriving in New England. We have fallen leaves already covering the lawn, and the kids are chilly enough to wear footy pajamas, sleep under heaping mounds of comforters, and still bring their bodies to our bed for warmth in the early morning hours. Though the temperature is rumored to rise in the next few days, tonight we have a fire in the fireplace and it could as easily be mid-January as it is mid-September.

The kids have both begun school. Kyra departs each day with an, "I don't want to go to school," attitude, and returns with pleasure that she's been. Somehow the joy in her day doesn't translate in the early morning--and I can't say I'm terribly different. Though I find my work richly satisfying most days, it is a rare morning when I'm jumping to get there. We're a lucky family. We love one another, we love being together, and it is difficult to drag us out into the rest of the world on many days.

Lucas is bravely heading off to preschool two mornings a week. He puts his feet timidly on the white line, awaiting his handle on their class rope--the tool they use in the early weeks to get the kids to walk together and stay in a straight line. I'd like a rope some days with explicit instructions for where to hang on; I'll gladly follow along! The good news from his first day sounded something like this: "No one cried today!" I shared this remark with a colleague from work, and she questioned if perhaps we should evaluate our days on a similar scale. Hmmm....

It is a strange mix--this cluster of new beginnings and the shortening days, signaling the year's end. Even in the slow decay, the colors promise a vivid spring to come. The only constant is change.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Day of rest?

For the past few Sundays, I've been working to honor the day as a day of rest and restoration. (My use of the word "working" in such a sentence is telling, is it not? I have to leave it there!) Today was no exception--we woke after a decent night's sleep (the kids had a much-wanted sleepover at Auntie's house), ate a leisurely breakfast (OK--we ate breakfast, even if not leisurely), taught Sunday School at church, and then took the new-to-us canoe we picked up last night out onto the river. I grumbled for a few minutes before settling into a comfortable position on my knees, and then felt suitably energized to paddle up, then down, then up river again on the meandering Farmington.

As we were nearing the close of our drift, we heard a family arguing anxiously on the other side of a tree lying across the river. The parents were in a double kayak, and each of their three children was in a single. A daughter was standing on-shore, a middle son was holding tightly to a rope swing from a neighboring tree trying to orchestrate the rescue, a younger son was tipping precariously as the current caught the side of his kayak, and the parents were hollering opposing instructions to all three of their children as the daughter's kayak slipped further under their boat and the water by the moment. Matt and I offered help, but served as little more than an audience to their eventual rescue of one another--and I suppose this was actually a meaningful purpose. When there are strangers watching, suddenly the arguing subsides and the productive problem-solving begins. Just a few moments later we were all on our way, Matt and I feeling gratitude once again that we had tried this first launch without the kids.

We met Auntie and the kids at a rendezvous halfway between her home and ours, and all lamented the Sunday New England traffic that awaited us. After a short bumper to bumper stretch, Matt and I opted for the road less traveled, choosing to take back roads and move rather than the main drag and sit. For a time, all was bliss--the kids watched the end of a movie on their DVD player, and Matt and I hummed along to the new Lori McKenna CD. The sun was a brilliant gold as it prepared to set, and we patted ourselves on the back for selecting the windy, scenic route. It was, for a time, a drive of rest to go along with my day of rest.

All holidays must end as we know, however, and the movie concluded, the windy road extended still further out in front of us, and the kids' lack of sleep at last night's slumber-free party caught up with them. When the kids weren't arguing with one another, they were wailing in their separate corners. Despite pulling over to take "the big" (as we call the big sister) for a walk, and soon thereafter purchasing both kids a bottle of water, they were not fit for road travel....and I suppose neither were we.

With only ten minutes remaining to our drive, my mother-in-law called. I can only imagine what we must have sounded or looked like for those minutes. In order to hear my mother-in-law I had my index finger jammed so hard into my non-phone ear that the nail left a mark still visible in the mirror. Matt was reaching through our seats, over the DVD player, to mediate between the kids while driving around a treacherously twisty road at dusk. The kids, in a word, were done. After withdrawing all privileges--return visits to Auntie's, evening storytime, tomorrow morning's television, eating, breathing or living under the same roof with us--we pulled into the driveway. Day of restlessness felt more apt to our experience than day of rest.

We were walking into the house when Kyra pulled out the words she hoped would wound. "You're not a good parent," she hissed at me as I fished through my purse for my keys. There were muttered words about not wanting to be or live here with us, and likely some laments about ever having to leave Auntie. If being human robs me of parental goodness, she's right. Whether caught up in a downed tree with the current flowing toward us or caught by Sunday evening traffic, the flaws of our families are sometimes too apparent....too visible for the seen and unseen audiences around us.

I suppose a day of rest is not about the usual "rules" I apply to it--no work, no computer (which leads invariably to work--I'm breaking this rule now!), no television. No distractions is really what I'm trying to achieve. Instead of focusing on those "no" qualities of such a day, however, maybe I should focus on the "yes." Yes to considering God and my family in a reflective, present manner. Yes to enjoying nature and a slower pace. Yes to accepting forgiveness--even for being a "bad parent"--and starting anew once again.

A faculty colleague said the other day, "It's never too late in the day to begin the day again." 9:36pm. I have some rest to attend to.

Monday, August 13, 2007

On the day you were born....

I've loved the book "On the Day You Were Born" by Debra Frasier from the very first moment I picked it up. The notion that all of creation--this masterful web to and through which we are all connected--celebrates the arrival of a single innocent, beautiful child felt and feels so true. So tomorrow I join with creation once again in remembering the moment six years ago when my dear daughter arrived to greet me cheek to cheek, eye to eye.

If given the opportunity to return to just two moments in my life, without hesitation I would go to that moment of bliss and wonder when each of my children were placed in my arms, lifted there by the most exceptional partner a person could want. We, and they, are blessed.

Thank you, God. Miracles abound, each and every moment.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Banquet

From my seventh grade fall through the summer following my college graduation, my family called Martha's Vineyard home. When you share such a place was your "growing up home," people oooh and aaah, of course--I'm quick to tell them, however, that we lived there when I was springing out on my own, ready to leave home and carve out my own life. As a result, I often lived away for some part of the summer, whether for the whole summer to work at beautiful Pathfinder Lodge in the equally-wonderful Cooperstown, NY, or to attend a study program for a period of weeks when the boats were filled to capacity and the streets pulsing with the bodies craving a taste of the many Vineyard delights. For that ten year period, there was only one summer when I lived home for the entire summer.

I had accepted a summer internship--a ministry role with a local camp, providing much-needed practical experience in my chosen field of Youth Ministry, and earning the credits I was awaiting as I worked my way toward graduation. Somewhere early in that summer my mother crafted a list for what we called "A Very Vineyard Summer," posting it on the refrigerator and checking off the activities as we experienced them. Whether picking strawberries from a local farm (my mother always insisted the high prices presumed a certain amount of field consumption), visiting a favorite beach for an evening sunset, or eating breakfast at the famed Black Dog, we dove into that summer and devoured each and every day. Somewhere along the way there was a wonderful newspaper editorial naming every season of Vineyard life a satisfying meal, but declaring summer "the banquet." We ate ourselves into a stupor that summer, figuratively and literally--capping off the three months together with a James Taylor concert at then Great Woods in Mansfield, MA. It was a very Vineyard summer indeed.

Eight months later my mother was gone, dead of pancreatic cancer that crept into her body long before it crept into our vocabulary. We knew of her cancer for only a month prior to her death, but there are days when I know that our very Vineyard summer sprung out of a place of deep knowing--a recognition that defies conscious awareness, but guides and leads our actions nevertheless. That summer was a fine, fine gift, and I treasure it still.

Perhaps because of these summer memories, I've approached summer as the banquet ever since. In our new Connecticut home, we have what I call "an embarrassment of riches"--our napkins are tucked in at our necks, our silverware raised, and we're eating course after course after course of a life of beauty and delight. The summer's treasures thus far....
  • Basketball, bikes and tennis in our expansive driveway and yard--some evenings we bounce the tennis ball off the kids' helmets as they circle us full-speed on their bikes.
  • The July 3rd (it rained on the 4th!) concert at Hartford Symphony's summer home in Simsbury, followed by fireworks worthy of a far larger community than this.
  • Experimental vegetable gardening--no harvest yet due to late planting, but the fun of watching edible life springing out of the ground from seeds as small as the eye can behold.
  • More concert pleasures....two Lori McKenna concerts, one with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
  • Fruit, fruit and more fruit purchased from local farm stands and our many area grocery stores--the juice literally drips down our chins and necks as we suck down these delights.
  • Evening drives to the many destinations near our new home--the large sycamore tree along the Farmington River is a favorite.
  • And what would a list of summer pleasures be without another mention of our trip to New Hampshire's Storyland, many days visiting Auntie in Boston and Grandma and Grandpa in upstate New York, and two blissful days with my niece from Oregon visiting us in CT. Heaven on earth in many different forms!

Our dear friends have just packed their car and pulled away from an overnight visit of laughter, loud shouts from children playing happily together, and countless hours sitting on the screen porch watching the sun move across the sky in yet another perfect arc. From this weekend banquet I feel filled to capacity--as though I couldn't eat another bite. The tents are up in the yard, though, and a summer storm is rolling in--let the next course begin....

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Home again

We've returned from a Boston work conference and our annual pilgrimage to Storyland--one of those treasures I am still so grateful to have found through friends. We had the pleasure of a washer and dryer in our resort unit--a surprise, as we were given a free upgrade--and so we even have clean laundry. Can you imagine how sweet such a homecoming is with work and a new summer camp starting up in the morning? The clean clothes are nearly all put away, and we have a beautiful, sunlit evening ahead of us to simply enjoy being home.

We've all settled into our favorite spaces. The kids are sitting at the dining room table coloring pictures, while several feet away in what we affectionately (and practically) call "the piano room," there are toys of every make and manner spread across the futon and the floor. I found my way to my music pile and the piano (perhaps it was a few songs belted out that pushed the kids to the table!), and Matt was out in the yard, watering the garden, repairing the bird feeder (a dead branch brought his daily source of entertainment crashing down!), and breathing in all that green. Our kind neighbors delivered our garbage can and recycle bins to our door, without our even remembering to ask them, and we are celebrating once again this choice we made for our lives. We Love Where We Live.

Thank God for vacation. Gone are the too many hours in the car, the four letter words when it became apparent that yet another bag would need to be held on a lap, and the no-nap afternoons that stretched precariously through whiny evenings. With us are memories of swimming in the pool, closing down Storyland as we raced from one last ride to another, a visit from Auntie to celebrate our favorite little guy turning three, and that wonderful ironic pleasure in appreciating home by leaving it behind.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Noticing

Our kids share a room in the new Connecticut house, and at bedtime, Matt and I are often lounging there with them as we try to settle their boisterous energy (on days when they've napped) or ease their tired heads into quick sleep (on days when they've only "rested"). When we're not racing downstairs to watch American Idol (forgive us, God!) or, currently, Six Feet Under on DVD, these are the most cherished moments in the day. Whether smelling sweet or sweaty, the kids are always revealing in the dark. As we say our thank you prayers, we find out what they most remember from the day (or month, as sometimes they are most thankful for any recent "grand" event)--whether the Memorial Day parade, the book about the firetrucks, playing outside with Daddy, or bathtime with Mommy. We hear that they love us, and they give us clutching, around the neck hugs that squeeze out air and squeeze in pure bliss.

Perhaps they are no more revealing than usual, but we have slowed down sufficiently to really hear them. One night not long ago, I was lying next to Kyra, rubbing her back and listening to Lucas's squeaky whisper voice as he attempted to tell some story to Matt, my mirror image in Lucas's bed. Lucas has progressed a great deal in his speech, after months--no, years--of worry with his continuous ear infections. Despite that he talks like the pre-school bound, almost three year old boy that he is, he still cannot say the letter "r." It always has a bit of "w" to it, and for the life of me, I can't give him a gesture, image or trick to get it to be an "r." "Roar" becomes "woaw." "Ruff" becomes "wuff." When I'm not worried that his lovely pre-school teachers will wonder what the heck we've been doing with him for the past year, I find this little w-sounding "r" to be quite precious. There must have been an "r" somewhere in the chatter that night in the bedroom, because I distinctly remember squeezing my eyes shut and praying, "Please God, let me always remember this."

And of course, as always happens when one grabs the camera, closes the eyes, tries to seal in the moment, the moment slipped away. I realized immediately that I couldn't remember Kyra at two-almost-three. I didn't know if she had a special "r" or if her whisper was squeaky like her brother's. I can remember that she said "opiemeal" for "oatmeal" and "aminal" for "animal" (come to think of it, she might still do that one....), but the sounds and the feelings they prompted in me were gone. And I realized just as quickly that I wasn't sorry. Replaced with distinct, clear images of her current articulate, imaginative, five-almost-six self, my sense of the wonder of Now Kyra is so full, I don't have a lot of room for Then Kyra. And so I prayed again. "Please God, let me always notice them."

Let me be awake, alive, aware and present, and really, truly notice them--notice and appreciate whatever is special in that moment.

What I'm noticing today:
  • Matt slid quietly out of bed for his early morning basketball, so I first noticed his absence when my alarm went off. I noticed how he still takes my breath away when he walked back in wearing a new-to-him sweatshirt and shining like the morning work-out had done a world of good.
  • Lucas is wearing a favorite pair of shorts--navy and white checked. From his sister he has learned phrases like, "Are my favorite shorts in the laundry?" and "Don't they make me look cute?" (For those of you who know Kyra, this particular phrase of hers seems hysterical, doesn't it?) He's wearing his sister's old socks today, and he was running from place to place, as though the blue stripe around the ankle was high octane gasoline. The boy is made for speed.
  • We celebrated Kyra's summer birthday with her school friends today; I read a story to the class. I noticed how she is at once pained and delighted by attention, and that we must somehow persist past the embarrassment to give her that instant of pleasure. When I thanked all the kids for being friends with Kyra this year--a potentially hard year with moving in the midst of school, one boy said, "Only Camrie is [her friend]." I felt a little sting, but then remembered how Kyra had been looking at Camrie all morning and thought, "Extraverted Momma, don't make your introverted girl thrive in a room full of people. Let her revel in the company of one--she is happy."

Notice, notice, notice....

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Nearest Emergency Room, anyone?

Ever since our move, Matt and I have joked about our need to find the closest hospital. In Massachusetts we lived literally two minutes from the hospital. (Those two minutes felt like infinity plus two as we were racing there for the arrival of baby #1!) Here in our riverside Connecticut home, hospitals are nowhere to be found. When the kids are particularly rambunctious, Matt will say only half in jest, "Do we have the GPS set for hospitals?"

On Monday I borrowed the GPS (a gift from Matt's former colleagues) to attend a conference in Schenectady, happily buzzing around miscellaneous side streets in East Longmeadow, MA, searching for a Starbucks that promised to be just a mile away but took a half hour to find! The satellite's interpretation of a direct route is sometimes mind-boggling. But Starbucks-searching aside, I was glad for the moment by moment directions. (Foreshadow....foreshadow.... pay attention here!)

Midway through the day I pulled out my cell phone to use the calculator function. Surprisingly, there was a voicemail message from Matt. Though I occasionally receive "I pooped on the potty" calls from Lucas, I immediately had a bad feeling when I saw the message signal flashing. My instincts were correct. Matt was seeking assistance in finding the nearest emergency room. If I had a minute, could I give a call?

Fortunately, he gave additional details. Rather than our usual fear of one of the kids crashing into the brick fireplace mantle or tumbling from the playset in the backyard, the "patient" in this instance was Matt. He was cutting one last board with the table saw, eager to finish a piece for the aforementioned playset before getting lunch together and racing off to an ear check for Lucas. When his right index finger took the final cut of the saw along with the board he was sliding, lunch became bagels in the ER, and Lucas's doctor appointment was postponed in favor of his father's more urgent need.

Always the picture of calm, Matt managed to assure me at least twice in this original message--"Really, it's no big deal. Just a couple of stitches, maybe. But if you could call with any idea of where a hospital might be...." I was listening to the message nearly three hours after it was sent, so my return call was of little help. By this point, Matt had actually accessed directions on the Internet, packed a little lunch, worked his newly-potty-trained son into a diaper (no easy feat, some of you will recognize!), and coaxed the big sister into getting her brother's shoes on and packing books for entertainment. Do you see why I love this man? I have reached for the phone to dial 9-1-1 over a split lip. Matt slices his finger in a saw and still manages to remember the diaper bag and his sense of humor.

I'll skip the gory details, few of which I know. The finger is intact, and Matt is bound for a specialist on Friday to see if he might need plastic surgery. We're all feeling that human mix of extreme gratitude and extreme inconvenience, with gratitude happily winning out most of the time. Matt is missing basketball (indulging in the play-offs as I type!), but he'll be back!

And in the meantime, if you want to find the nearest ER, just give him a call.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The days to remember....

....Kyra riding her bike without training wheels after just one "supported run" with Matt and a few minutes of coasting with her feet along the ground....

....Kyra and Lucas both attempting to tell knock-knock jokes with their 5 and 2 year old sense of rhythm and comic content....

Knock Knock.

Who's there?

Tree

Tree who?

Tree, tree--bucket truck, won't you cut down me?

(Insert roaring, belly laughter here! While I appreciated the sing-song, poetic nature of this joke told by Kyra as we drove to school this morning, I do think we need to work a bit on her environmental sensibilities!)

....Lucas's perpetual challenge to my belief that anatomy is NOT destiny. With words like "shoot" and "kill" coming from his mouth despite no exposure to TV, day care (no longer since he's home with peace-loving Daddy) and bigger children, I'm honestly starting to wonder....

....Kyra recently discovered the word "damn" all on her own. While we've explained that swears are adult words for very strong feelings and reactions--words we are very careful about using around strangers--she is having a great time trying it out at home. Remind me of my amusement and complacency when her "words that rhyme with bam" game becomes "words that rhyme with truck...."

Pure love!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Staying home for now....

The signs are all around the house, I'm certain. Interview notes in folders now closed, day care cost sheets slipped into files or recycle bins, and a palpable feeling of relief. The sign that most leaped out at me, though, were the socks--a neatly rolled pile of dress socks now stored on a high shelf in the closet. No longer in the drawers, but not out the door, either. A sign that the questions are answered, the arrangements are settled....for now.

Without sharing extensive details (something I obviously have not made time for in quite awhile!), I'll simply share that Matt will be home with the kids into at least the summer. There were plenty of dramatic moments--job and interview offers, negotiations, worry about bills and money, renegotiations. And now, a bit of peace....Matt will be home. His professional skills are a natural fit for consulting, allowing him to earn the money we need with minimal time on-site or actually "on the job." With roughly one day a month, he can bridge the gap between what we have and what we truly need to pay the bills. We've decided that earning what we need, rather than what we want, feels good and right for the moment. For three months we've learned to live on less. Eating out is a want. Movies can be watched at home, and there are years ahead for expensive babysitters, concerts, the theatre. Do we miss it? Of course, a teeny-tiny bit. But most importantly, we have a child who suffered from chronic illnesses who is suddenly well without day care exposure. And that seems worth more consideration than season tickets to the symphony or a summer vacation away from home.

Now we settle in, and we witness to the feelings that arise from the situation of this moment. Relief? Of course....Matt's commitment to home gives me the space to be committed to a job that really requires my attention and time. Envy? A little....Believing that we could never have afforded my being home, I never seriously pursued the opportunity. I limped along in a part-time plus job, earning less than my value, and feeling always somehow inadequate at work or at home. Pride? Absolutely....I honor those parts of me that both earn my family's care and keep, and that placed Matt's next few months in the space of possibility and trust rather than worry and control. And I must mention my pride in Matt--in the courage it takes to step out of the world of work and truly invest himself in the life of a home. Where it will lead? Who of us ever knows....

For now, the socks remain in the closet, the suits on their hangers, and my kids delight in reading Jesse Bear books, reminding us when Jesse's father appears at the end of the day that it is their mom, not their dad, who comes home at dinnertime. For now, it is good....

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Christmas Vacation

While I've never hidden how delightfully "low brow" my family's sense of entertainment is, the Christmas holidays and our associated rituals bring us to new lows. Case in point....I actually felt a twinge of disappointment when my brother-in-law said he was bringing a rib roast for Christmas Eve dinner, replacing for this year only my decades-old family tradition of roasting hot dogs over an open fire (or in the microwave when there's no open fire or the kids are too hungry to wait!). No worries--we simply ate the hot dogs for lunch that day!

Another favorite Christmas ritual? We always gather together to watch the movie "Christmas Vacation." We laugh until tears roll out of our eyes, each year exclaiming, "I don't know if it's funny or sad that this feels so true!" Well, with Christmas 2006 behind us, I can say that Christmas Vacation is sad indeed when it really is true. After delighting in our roast, we woke Christmas morning to the unexpected death of a beloved pet, and only days later to the news of a family member's lost job and related lost year-end bonus. Ugh....the movies come to life are never terribly entertaining.

Here's hoping 2007 brings a little less change in our home, and a little more peace and happiness for all....