Saturday, December 20, 2008

And It Came.

It was not the twelve inches the kids had hoped for but we can work with this six to eight. And the good news is, we should be getting another four to six on top of this by tomorrow morning. I have an igloo in my backyard and the sledding/snowboarding ramp is in top form.

Finally, finally it is feeling like winter around here.

Friday, December 19, 2008


This is one of those days when I think of people who live in warm states. Sure, it's nice to wear light jackets in December and have flowers in your flowerbed year round, but they never get to experience days like today.

We have BIG snow headed our way.

Out my window right now I see a driveway dusted with snow. Our neighborhood is still recovering from the huge ice storm that ripped through a week ago. Friends around the corner just got their power back yesterday. But we all did okay. We banded together and helped each other out. Those with electricity shared with those who had none. And it was a great excuse to check up on each other.

The ice has melted and just a few ice ravaged tree branches are left behind. Piles of twigs and branches are stacked at the end of each driveway, like we are all gearing up for some big magical bon fire. Bigger limbs still clutter many yards (including ours) because it has been too cold to hack away at them with our chainsaws.

The picture above is what a fifteen year old who loves winter can do with just an inch or two of snow. Scraped off our long driveway and hauled to his sledding hill, he was able to get a few good runs in on his snowboard before the bus came yesterday.

By tonight he will be rejoicing.

See, what we get to experience that is foreign to our southern state neighbors is the thrill of the anticipated storm. If our forecasters are right and Al Roker isn't lying, we are due to get slammed with a huge snowstorm by the time we start dinner. The kids will come home at lunchtime, even before the storm hits, in anticipation of this rocking storm. There is so much excitement in the air even the dog is a bit skittish this morning.

Sure, down South they get hurricanes, but blizzards are much more fun. For one thing we don't worry much about our storms flattening our houses and washing them out to sea. We get a few days warning, so we can join all our neighbors at the grocery store, stocking up on canned chili, milk and bread. Then we get to sit back and watch. It is gorgeous as it comes down (as opposed to a hurricane, which I have not seen but imagine to be not so entertaining). Then once we are blanketed in we get to hunker down and enjoy each other.

Board games are brought out. Candles are lit. Books are shared as we snuggle on the couch together. We might even get to watch of a few of the movies I've checked out from the library. It's all good.

For the past three days we've known this one was coming. The kids have chattered about it at school "Did you hear? We're going to get THREE feet!" (teen age exaggeration) and library patrons at work brought it up over and over again while I checked books out to them. "Hope we don't lose power again!" We all pretend its a bad thing, that we are just not ready for another big storm, but down deep its exciting.

It's like a mini planned vacation, ordered by God. "Hey you, down there on Earth, stay home and enjoy each other for a few days!"

I'm ready. Chili is stocked. Milk's in the fridge. Bring it on. It's time for some good ole' winter fun. And a good old fashioned blizzard.

Snow Cone

Now a flash back to an essay from the archives....

Sam Had a Snowcone for Breakfast

After a long day of not feeling well four year old Sam was hitting his wall. I knew it, his big brothers and sister knew it, but Sam himself didn't quite know it yet. As the late afternoon wore on, my boy who was on the last days of a bad cold, came to me over and over, wanting comfort. I soothed his latest wound, most of them emotional, as he tried repeatedly to keep playing while his body was trying to tell him it was time to quit. The smallest rift with brothers sent him into cascades of tears. Even a kind look from big sister made his body break into sobs. So he kept returning to my lap and I kept thinking he would fall asleep while we rocked. But each time he found some inner reservoir of energy and decided he wanted to play just a bit longer.

Finally I knew it was time to step in and insist that the night be brought to a close. I was tired and daddy was working late to prepare for our big trip to the East coast in two weeks. My days were full of packing and making arrangements, so by six o'clock I was hitting my own weary wall. And Sam just needed to let go and call it a day. As we were getting our last drink of milk from the fridge Sam saw it...the syrup for making snow cones. They were a frequent treat in the summer months but when autumn rolled around the snow cone machine was tucked into a back cabinet and the syrups were stored in the fridge. The idea delighted Sam. He asked, "Mom, can me have a 'no cone?"

I had to say no. It was the right thing to do. I have no doubt that if he were an only child I would have said yes in a heartbeat. But the big kids were constantly complaining that I treated the baby of the family with favor and I knew they were right. It was late, the snow cone machine was packed away, and it was time for bed. Not time for snow cones. But my boy felt deeply in his soul that he NEEDED a snow cone. Once I said no I had to stick to it. Much weeping and wailing followed but I held my ground.

I rocked him a bit more, then we lay on the bed together, watching Sponge Bob. About every two minutes he would roll over to look at me with big sad eyes and say, "Mommy....PEEZE can me have a 'no cone?" Of course I would have to answer a quiet "No, maybe tomorrow", which was followed by a minute of tired, quiet sobs from his side of the pillow.

Finally, finally, he fell into a much needed sleep.

Then I was sitting at the computer this morning, checking my email before the kids got up, and a squinty eyed pre-schooler opened the door to the office. Before his eyes even adjusted to the light, in a tiny voice, he said, "Mommy, can me have a 'no cone NOW?"

The email could wait, my boy had waited long enough. We searched the cabinets, behind the waffle maker and the extra coffee pot, and we found the snow cone maker. We quickly set it up, filled it with fresh ice, and were cranking away with first morning energy.

Suddenly all that had been so wrong in his four year old world last night was all better. The magic elixir of snow cone juice healed all. Very few times in life can such big problems be solved with such simple solutions. It was a new day and time for a fresh start.

And that is why Sam had a snow cone for breakfast.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Our Fault

Yes, we did ask for more winter weather. With the dusting of snow we got a few weeks ago, the boys got the itch for real snow fun and started doing the daily snowstorm dance.

I am not naive. I know we don't have the greatest dance moves, but Come On. Did we do the snow dance so out of whack that we got this horrendous ice storm instead?

Up front I want to apologize to the whole upstate New York area. It is our fault. We swayed the hips and waved the hands in the air in some kind of twisted version of the sacred dance and we called forth this mess.

It's a beautiful mess, don't get me wrong. There is little to compare to the magical ice coating on each tiny limb and branch of every tree in our yard and woods. The sun shines through it like we live in a fairy land. You can stand outside and hear the crackling chorus as the wind sways branches and plays a tune.

As the temperatures warmed a few degrees it made standing under said trees a bit dangerous. Middle Boy decided to play it safe and wear his ski helmet. Not a bad plan. He was surrounded by chunks of ice that had shattered around his feet, making our driveway look like it was covered in broken glass.

Obviously our sitting in lawn chairs days are over for now. It's time to break out the sleds. It's time to make snow men. If we could just find a way to get rid of this coating of ice and start over. We are humble enough to admit we messed up. The dance we thought was the one that brought snow just made fools of us.

For now all dancing has been called off and we are changing our game plan. Maybe its time to call in the big guns. We're leaving Santa an extra big pile of cookies and a note: "Please leave the presents under the tree and six to twelve inches of snow in the front yard."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fisher Price Christmas

It was all much easier when the Fisher Price Farm was the only toy in my cart.

It sat right next to the jumbo box of disposable diapers and a two pound bag of animal crackers. Perched in the front passenger seat was a toddler who periodically clapped his hands and goo-ed at his sister. Having been bumped out of the seat by a brother who arrived just after her first birthday, she soon discovered it was much more fun to walk next to us, wrapping her tiny fingers through the slick metal bars of the cart basket because mommy said if she didn’t a stranger might take her away.

They were easy. It was physically exhausting to care for their constant daily needs, but in some ways life was much easier. A Barney video effortlessly bought me a half hour of quiet. I knew where they were and exactly what they were doing for as long as the dinosaur’s friends bopped and danced through their pretend neighborhood set.

I could fit most of their dirty clothes in one big load. Weekly laundry was a breeze. Little clothes are quick to wash and even quicker to fold. Nothing needed ironing and on most days these two little buddies of mine were more than thrilled to help tuck it all away in dresser drawers.

They strategically and loyally napped at the same time every day and we all met up again in the late afternoon, refreshed and ready for the next adventure the day might bring.

And then came the holidays. Money was tight but they never knew it. Most of the treasures under the Christmas tree were bright colored toys that had been scrubbed of their $1 and $2 price tags. Garage sales and thrift stores seemed to overflow with perfectly good preschooler toys.

Every year we bought one item from the department store. One brand new toy that two little people could share. Most years it was a set from the Fisher Price people village. A farm joined our family one year, a schoolhouse the next. Slowly our collection grew and soon we realized we owned the whole neighborhood. Twenty bucks at a time our little town grew.

Then time flashed by and our household expanded by two more boys. The second two seemed to leave their preschool years behind them at a much faster rate than their older siblings had. We barely got out FisherPriceville anymore. New shiny hot wheels and forts their big brother made out of bed sheets were much more exotic and exciting. Barney grew dusty in the VCR and was eventually given to the new mommy next door.

And Christmas became much more expensive. Twenty dollar sets of round plastic people didn’t cut it anymore. Now each item on Santa’s list averaged forty, then sixty dollars. All the new gadgets being flashed across Nick Jr. and the Disney Channel were electronic and expensive.

Suddenly it was a long term commitment. You buy the unit then realize it’s not enough. There are chargers and screen guards and earplugs and upgrades to buy, not to mention the endless stream of new game cartridges that are all sold separately. Now the average price for one item often topped a hundred dollars. In our house that was multiplied by four different lists.

Our budget did not expand as dramatically as our (once little) family so every year we still give the speech about how money is tight. Now they are old enough to understand what that means. Lists are reviewed and prioritized while alliances are made to share any and all new gaming systems and cartridges that might make their appearance under the tree.

As heartbreaking as it is for a mother who wants to wrap pretty presents, several of my older kids are now requesting the cash instead of the gifts. They like having the control to pick for themselves and not waste limited Christmas bucks on some item they really never wanted.

Jeff and I walk the aisles, hands clutching four carefully constructed lists from four very different kids. We have round and round discussions about where the money could best be spent. With each passing year we browse in and out of the electronics section a bit more than the toy section. Very soon we will have no reason to even steer the cart over to the brightly colored displays of teddy bears, Tinker Toys and building blocks.

But this year, as we glide down the aisle of pretend toys, I will brush my hand along the smooth surface of the Fisher Price village and try not to shed a tear. It just doesn’t seem right that my favorite little round people are moving on and finding love in a new little preschooler’s chubby fist.

High Tech Help

I look at the clock and notice it is 5:38 p.m. I look at the empty stove and realize dinner will be late again.

In the distance I hear explosive sounds coming from the family room. My teenage son and his friends are bonding over the latest video game, becoming specially trained military men with the click of a button on their vibrating controllers. A teenage girl who looks a lot like me walks through the kitchen with a tiny gray phone pressed to her ear, lost in conversation with her latest best friend. Tucked in a corner of the dining room my eight year old points and clicks away on the family computer. Surrounded by this new world of high tech possibilities I have not been left behind. As I scurry out to the car to bring in the last load of groceries, my shiny metal foot bounces back with each step, providing an energy return feature that powers my day.

I have been blessed with technology not just in my ability to keep in touch with overseas relatives vie instant email, but by the new advancements in artificial limbs. It is one of the reasons I chose to become an amputee in the first place.

Yes, I chose this life. Five years ago I got mad. After living with a deformed foot that only seemed to deteriorate more with each passing year, I began a research campaign. I interviewed orthopedic doctors and scoured amputee websites. I visited prosthetists and held plastic feet and legs in my hands, inspecting them to see exactly how much potential they might hold. I read books and articles about the new advancements that were being made in this world of plastic and metal limbs. And I liked what I found.

It became very clear to me that the active amputee in this new millennium was living a much better life than I had been stuck with. I had never been able to walk well and hadn’t been able to run since I was a seven year old. A simple trip to do weekly grocery shopping could wear me out. In my research I found metal feet that bounced back with each step. It became apparent that I could finally have two good, participating feet when I walked.

We are in a new age. Cell phones and computer equipped cars are not the only life changing advancements out there. For the first time in history it’s possible for a metal limb to trump flesh and bone. And the advancements are not just for the super athletes and the mountain climbers. They are also for me.

I don’t need to run a marathon today, I just need to be able to shop the whole grocery store and still have energy left when I get home to make dinner, help with homework, and maybe throw in a few loads of laundry.

The only mountain I will climb today will be the pile of clothes that threatens to take over the floor of my daughter’s room. But with my new high tech leg I have no fear. I know I can get that pile down the stairs and tucked away in the laundry room with plenty of time left to meet my second grader at the kitchen table for a practice spelling test.

You can have your fancy new iphone and your realistic video games. My vote for best new high tech gear is the one I snap on every morning, just below my knee. It has given me an active life I thought was out of reach.

Screeching Halt

Well, here is the answer to "What ever happened to taking another round of Christmas pictures?" One lethargic eight year old, burning up with fever. Joined just hours later by his 12 year old brother, also burning up with fever.

This was on Monday.

They are still burning up with fever and it is now Wednesday night. It just might be time to go see the doctor tomorrow.

Tonight as I put Sam in a cool bath to try to coax down his 103.9 fever, he eased into the water with a long "Ahhhhhh". We washed his hair and slowly got him back onto dry land. His fever was a few degrees cooler and the bath water had gotten a few degrees warmer. (at least that's what I told him, and I kind of believe it too...)

So not only is our next attempt at a Christmas picture on hold until this thing passes, this just happens to be the week that my article in the parenting column of the paper was about how sometimes I feel like a negligent mom, not rushing my kids to the doctor with every little sniffle.

Guess we'll be seeing Dr. Karen tomorrow. It's been a whole six days since we've seen her. I'm sure she misses us.

Flash Forward one week: We did go see Dr. Karen. And by the time we schlepped back out of her office we had five diagnosis.

Both boys had the flu that brings high fevers. Both boys had strep throat. And on top of all of that, Baby Boy also had pneumonia. He was such a mess that he was subjected to a huge shot of antibiotics in the butt before we left the office. I had never seen that done before. One huge dose, all at once, to jump start his healing. It is a long, painful process and feels twice as bad when you feel pretty crappy to start with. My boys got extra hugs that day. It is hard to watch debilitating illness when you're the mom.

It was the morning that I realized Christmas cards would not be mailed out on time and Christmas cookies might not get baked. We'd be lucky to get a bare bones holiday pulled off. But after a week home from school everyone got better and by the time Santa came there were smiles all around.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Picture - take one

Okay, so I thought it would be easier when they were older. I was wrong.

Maybe we'll try again tonight, when Middle Boy at least has a clean shirt on and Baby Boy is wearing something besides pajama pants.

Or maybe we'll just send out one of these for our Christmas picture. After all, it's who we truly are.

"Cool Shoes!"

When they were four and five they shared things with each other.

"Boo, look at the sucker I got at the bank with mom!"

"Bubby, look at this cool sticker I got at the doctor's office."

The older they got, the less they seemed to share the little things in life. Their gender difference, such a non issue in the preschool years, slowly caused a small gap in their interests. Then a bigger gap as he could often be found rolling his eyes and saying, "What's up with her?"

So it brought me great joy to catch this moment on film. In the middle of a crazy night when the house was full of friends, he came in with his brand new pair of track shoes. To get these shoes we took him to a special track store that analyzes your gait and recommends specific styles of running shoes.

He was more than excited and even took them for a quick run around the neighborhood on nighttime streets that were pitch black.

She seemed definately interested, without coaching from me, when he came in the door with his new treasures. And for a split second I could see them as five year olds again. Sharing the important life stuff with each other.

It hardly even mattered that the prized possession cost a lot more money than the free stickers we used to get at the doctor's office and the free suckers we got at the bank.

My First Angel

He woke up earlier than all the other kids. He happened to look out the window and almost screamed about what he saw. Snow. Finallyfinallyfinally snow! It was a dusting but it was coming down hard.

He dug through the snow gear closet on his own and within a half an hour he was fully suited up. He couldn't wait to run in the yard with the dog, making first prints. He couldn't wait to see if the sledding hill was ready to go. But first things first.

The first thing he did was lay his little body on the driveway outside my office window. Moving excited arms and legs up and down he made his mark.

Because his first priority on this first snow morning of the year was showing his love for Mama. He wanted me to have a snow angel to look at while I worked on the computer.

My angel with his gift angel. Does life get any better than this?

When You Love Snow

My kids have been desperate for snow this year. We usually have some accumulation by now and it has just not come. We had a teasing heavy flurry in October but nothing stuck. If there were a Native American Snow Dance we would be doing it every morning.

So finally, finally, when the snow started to fall, then stick some, on Sunday morning, my kids rejoiced. Baby boy was the first out the door, dressed from head to toe in gear. The big kids and friends followed soon after.

At one point I looked out my office window to see the above scene. This is snow they have scraped off the neighbor's driveway and are hauling over to our small sledding hill. They were determined to sled and snowboard before the day was over.
Leave it to persistent boys, they did it. By mid morning they were snow boarding. And had even created a small jump.
Over and over they went down our little hill. It was enough for today but I'm afraid it only gave them a taste of what they really crave. Bring on the two foot snowstorm. We've had our 'first snow of the year' drill and we have succeeded. We have shovels, and hills and wheelbarrows.

We are ready.

Friday, December 5, 2008

So Sweet

Way back when I had preschoolers I worried. I love the little people. I wondered what it would be like to have bigger kids. I was terrified of what it would be like to have teens.

But time went by and all of the sudden we had teens in our house. And they weren't scary. They were people that I had grown to love over more than a decade of living with them. Their independence was liberating, for them and for me.

Now we have a house full of not only teens, but many teen friends. And it's not scary at all. It's actually pretty fun.

A week ago I announced that Friday night would be Game Night, for anyone who was interested. Two showed up, which gave us six kids total. Then another friend just happened to stop by and loved the idea of Monopoly, so he stayed. Then our old neighbor from next door, who has moved to CT, showed up for a visit. So he pulled up a chair too.

And suddenly we had a full fledged game night. And it was great.

Their noise is great. Their sense of humor is great. It was fun to watch so many different personalities navigate the two board games we pulled out. I stopped playing halfway through only because I gave up my spot to the last kid who showed up. But I'm okay with that.

I'm not a competitive person anyway. I am mainly, deep in my soul, a mom. A mom who treasures seeing a table full of kids I love having so much fun together.

It was cold and bitter outside on that December Friday night in New York. But around my dining room table there was warmth. Laughter and teasing and brownies and fun.

And it was so so sweet. And not scary at all.