Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas

We had Christmas a little early, at least on a small scale, when my sister and her hubby and their little Christmas cookie came to visit this past weekend. There were breathtaking lights to ooh and ahh over at Longwood Gardens, gifts to exchange (more ooh-ing and ahh-ing), Christmas cookies to be rolled and cut and frosted and tasted, and lots and lots of skating on the pond.
Oh and baby soft elbows and knees to kiss and cuddle.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree ....

Went tree huntin' on Saturday and we bagged a good one. Other than the mild disappointment expressed from five of them b/c their tree wasn't the one selected, it went pretty well. The Weather Fairy gave us one perfect day sandwiched between two weeks of deep-freeze. No wind, lots o' sunshine, 45-ish; perfect for the task at hand. Sis, who seems to lack the power of speech, gave each of the kiddos a bag of popcorn, and off we ambled.

We found our tree in short order and hauled it back to the car, and my two young men strapped the bounty to the top.

Next there was hot chocolate to be consumed by all, and the younger kids had the fun of picking out their very own Charlie Brown tree, complete with rickety wooden stand made on the premises.

At the tree farm, we saw some rustic "lawn reindeer" made of logs. So of course the first thing my artist James did once we got home was to make one himself. This was the first time he ever made one and I think it came out better than the ones we saw at the farm.

Once we got our prize home we went ahead and strung the lights and decorated it right away. It won't win any prizes from Martha Stewart, but I love it. It's filled top to bottom with paper chains the kids have made and their "special ornaments" that Santa brings them each and every year. As they unwrap them from the plastic bags and tissue paper, the family room is filled with "I remember this one!" and oohs and ahhs.
The kids love the tree too. In fact, four of them slept on the floor next to the tree that very night, all cuddled up in their sleeping bags, staring up at the lights of their tree.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Grocery Day (or, Things to be Thankful For)

Monday was Grocery Day, as it generally is, barring the unforseen circumstances that pop up from time to time like the livestock running amok through the neighborhood or one of the kids coming down with the latest rampaging virus.
I know I should dread the drudgery. But I will admit here and now with chin high in the sky that I have come to enjoy my Grocery Day. I should be ashamed of myself, bright, college-educated modern woman that I am. After all, what self-respecting 21st century woman in her right mind would admit to enjoying such mundane Betty Crocker Crap? Clipping coupons, comparing prices, checking ingredients, doing the zombie shuffle though the aisles while singing under her breath to the soft rock piped overhead. What's to like?
Well, I'll tell ya':
Number one: Nowadays I can do this while all the kids are quietly bending their heads over their studies at school. I could enjoy stepping on dog poo while the kids are at school. Not that I don't adore my little darlings, but the days of shopping with three kids under the age of four are none too distant and that memory patch is still a bit raw around the edges. Displays being knocked over, packages being opened, butter being consumed. Sprints to the spooky,
cobwebbed employee restrooms with a potty-training tot doing the crotch grab. Trying to ignore the fumes emanating from the diaper from the yearling seated before me. Attempting to physically locate my runaway and politely asking the clerk to post an amber alert. Not to mention the noses leaking putrid-looking goo, my boobs leaking b/c the need-to-nurse-NOW baby is wailing, or the whining, crying, demands for every conceivable make of cereal, cookie,and popsicle. But now that's all behind me. I have a tranquil hour to myself in the quiet calm of the store. It's like a day at the spa.
Number two: Remarkably, there is not a stray sock or a clump of windblown doghair in sight. If there is a spot that looks like it could use a once-over, someone will get to it. Meaning not me.
Number three: Frugal Me likes trying to see how low I can go with the prices. It's like my own private game show, where I try to see how much I can get in the cart for $200 or less.
Number four: I prefer my little local store to the mega-gi-normous supermarket that most of my friends go to. It's little, nothin' fancy. The clerks know me by name (gee I ... I wonder why?) and the "cart boy" is an older delayed man by the name of Kenny that calls everyone Cupcake and seems to have his speaking voice set to megaphone.
Number Five: I can even do the fridge clean-out prior to putting the newly purchased food away without the guilt that would normally accompany tossing "perfectly good" (what's wrong with the color blue?) food in the trash. I have a spectrum of four-legged critters that can consume all manner of leftovers. If the item in question looks good but is just past the date, some can be fed to the house dogs. If the ham is in the slimy-but-not-yet-moldy stage, I can toss it out to our farm dog. Wilted looking produce can go to the rabbits and the goats get nearly everything else. Guilt-free tossing.

And though I hate the redundancy of loading groceries into the cart, onto the conveyor belt, into the car, into the house, and finally onto my shelves at home, there is a certain zen calm that washes over me when the last of the items are all tucked neatly to bed in the pantry or fridge. As I peer into the gigantic, brightly-lit frostiness and gaze at the fiesta of colorful packages , I always flash back momentarily to the days of my youth, when the fridge looked markedly different than the one before me now. In those days, the food packaging tended to the monochromatic, with stark black and white labels devoid of superlatives. Instead of the convenience of the cheese sticks my kids grab for snacks or grated cheese in fancy ziplock bags, we had "guvmint cheese" in a block as long as my arm. Powdered milk, mammoth plastic bags of Puffed Rice, and cans of tuna that could become dinner for six once the miracle of mayonnaise was applied to the formula. I look at the bowl on my kitchen table overflowing with fresh, shiny fruit and recollect that about the only fruit we had as kids was no-brand grape jelly.
And this time of year, these feelings are magnified with grocery shopping for the holidays. It fills me with an enormous sense of satisfaction to walk through the aisles of my grocery store, picking out the items I need to cook the family dinner complete with traditional dishes passed down through the generations. That I can buy the things I need for these special occassions and pay with cash (as opposed to calculating things while filling the cart and then paying with food stamps) marks a notch on my "I've Made It" belt. And aside from that, I love the feeling that the only knock on my door from strangers in the days before the holidays will likely be from a Jehovah's Witness. As a kid, I can remember the good samaritans coming to our door laboring under the load of boxes of donated food collected for "those less fortunate". In my mind I knew how wonderful it was to receive such a bounty. But opening mystery cans dented beyond recognition and boxes of pasta crawling with weevils, it was sometimes hard to fill myself with the gratitude I knew I was supposed to be feeling. And then I would feel ashamed of myself for harboring such thoughts.

What I can be grateful for today is that we are secure enough financially that my kids wouldn't know a food stamp if it bit 'em on the bum. I am thankful that they don't need to wonder if I will be able to stock the shelves with food from week to week. And I am thankful that they will never, at least as children, have to thank a stranger handing them a box of food at the holidays.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Published Again!

Just got word that I'll be getting published again! I had submitted a couple essays to an editor putting together a book on foster parenting and I've learned that at least one will be making it to print and possibly the other as well.
Now I just need to put together a bio and send in a picture. Whaadya think my chances are that I'll be able to dig up a photo of all eight of us that's free of:
a)one kid holding up devil's horns over another's head
c)someone crying over being stepped on/poked/shoved/looked at
d)deranged looking parents telling everyone to cut it out this instant and just smile, dammit!
I'd say slim to nill.....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks....Again

A couple days ago we enjoyed a nice, if uneventful, Thanksgiving. No dossiers in the making, no kids waiting in the wings, no far-flung vacations (dreamt of, but never fleshed out).
Instead we cooked a traditional Turkey Day dinner for our core family of 8 plus about 5 of our relations. Two turkeys plus a chicken, Big Mama's cornbread dressing, yams, Mae's corn casserole, about 5 pies, etc, etc, (burp) etc. It was all quite yummy to be sure but, quite frankly, I don't know if 10 - 12 hours of cooking is justified by "yummy".
What else have we done besides cook and eat? Well, we're currently in the company of James' best friend Madiyar from Mass, who flew in on Friday. They've enjoyed a few quiet days of hanging out together and speaking rapid-fire Russian. We've had a couple other friends over as well from time to time and have kept busy stringing lights, throwing away moldy caved in pumpkins, and watching the first of the Christmas movies. We've begun the process of addressing and stuffing the envelopes of our Christmas cards, which always seems to take sooo much longer than I think it will. Though a dear friend of mine told me I get the prize for being the first Christmas card she received, I'm quite sure I will be the last for someone as well.

Tomorrow I will put M back on a Massachusetts-bound plane, take a couple kids to a couple appointments, and with any luck cook up some turkey soup for dinner. Tues will begin school again and we'll be back to the grind. But as long as that grind includes Christmas, I'll be happy. Call me a sap but I love the whole sloppy mess.

But I digress from the whole point of the post, which was Thanksgiving. To wrap it all up with a pretty bow, here's what I posted about the day two years ago, when we were fresh off the boat (er, plane) from Kazakhstan:

Giving Thanks.....
... For:
the smell of turkey roasting
pumpkin pie
when one of my kids says, "You make the best (xyz) EVER!"
Bonnie's turkey pictures
Christmas music on the radio
family games
watching A Christmas Story with the kids on the couch
my comfy bed
getting closer and closer to a "good night's sleep"
washing laundry in my washing machine (instead of the bottom of a shower)
drying laundry in my dryer (instead of draped over radiators)
first trip back to the farm for fresh milk
Sophie's neuroses, and her cuteness
healthy happy children
wonderful, caring, helpful extended family
friends I've met along the way

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sign of the Times

My daughter gave me her Christmas list yesterday. Well, first of all, she didn't "give" it to me. She forwarded it to me. From GoogleDocs.
Gone are the days of adorable Santa wish lists with misspelled, oversized words that slant down the page.
This was a neatly typed list, no spelling errors in sight, with hperlinks to the products requested that I might better view the items and have access to all pertinent ordering information.
While the efficient me loved the practicality of such a list, the mushy me was ready to cry reminiscent tears remembering back to some of the lists of days gone by. Lists that implored Santa to bring a Babrbie laptop and Barbie boots and a Barbie RV. Lists that asked for a jumprope and an Easy Bake Oven. Letters that inquired as to the health of Mrs. Claus and the elves, and wished Santa a safe flight. Little drawings. Sniff. Letters that smelled of purple crayon and spilled juice. Sniff, sniff.
I'll be alright. Just give me a moment.....

Just click the button and I'll be OK. Sniff.
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Resolution time?

I know it's only November, but I'm thinking I already need a resolution, b/c clearly I'm not making the time for writing. Letting life's busy-ness push aside things that are important and fulfilling to me.
So from now on, I am going to say no to some of the should do's and yes to some of the optionals.
Like just today, for example. What I should have done with the kids was put away the patio furniture and cut back some of the plantings for the winter. What we did instead was go to the library, followed by some driveway games, and topped off with a walk into the fields to pet the ponies and do their hair all pretty. On our way back in through the barn, just for good measure, we stopped to pet the bunnies. Minnie was furtive as ever and Alice is just enormous, no other word for it. She's roughly the size of a cocker spaniel at this point.

And know what? I'm not done yet. Tonight I'm taking them out to the movies, goldangit. Just try to stop me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What To Post, What To Post?

It is such a paradox that my life seems busy to the point that I actually feel winded, yet when I pause for a moment to post to the blog, I've got nothin'.

I mean, I haven't updated in a couple weeks. I should be able to write volumes. Perhaps it's just that it all seems so darn mundaaaane.

After all, where's the fun in writing about parent meetings at CCD? Never mind that I was asked to come to said meeting in error, b/c it was geared towards parents of confirmation candidates. But how do you get up and walk out on the grey-haired director of the religious ed program when she's in the middle of reading scripture?

Should I have written about the day I had to drive back and forth to Wilmington (an hour away) not once but twice in one day? Once for myself (wonder why I need therapy), then another "family counselling" session for all the kids and myself, followed by individual appointments for all the kids of mine with letters behind their names to see the doc (it's med check time).

Let's not even talk about the fact that I had to go in yet again last night for one kid's individual appointment and yes, you guessed it, again tomorrow for another kid. Wonder if they'll let me rent a cot in the office?

Are carpool details blogworthy? I'm thinking no. Even though some of us nearly came to blows this week over some misunderstandings of who would be driving whom. No sooner did we get it all sorted out and planned for the remainder of the week then the rest of the practices for the week were cancelled.

I could journal my experience chaperoning the 2 day/overnight field trip to a camp with the 6th graders, but I'm working hard with my therapist to put that all behind me.

Would my readers find it interesting that we had to shell out hundreds of dollars in cavity repairs for our kids this week and we're not done yet? That we're behind on laundry? That no matter where my weary eyes look around this house they find something that should be picked up, put away, paid, fixed, or cleaned? Doubtful.

Perhaps I should detail the decisions I make day to day. Like:
Should I retrieve the runaway ponies this instant or wait until I can put the perishables in the fridge?
Do I drop what I'm doing to put an end to yet another squabble or let them work it out (ie rip each other's throats out like wolves)?
Should I cut all James' curls off like he wants or hide all the scissors?
Keep an iron will for the needed weight loss or give in to chocolate?
Cook a meal or pick up the phone?

So I'm sorry to disappoint, my blog friends, but I've got nothin' for ya'.

Better luck next week .....

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Sunday, September 19, 2010


When my kids were little they had playdates. Carefully arranged home-based playtime that us Moms would squeeze in between Gymboree, preschool, park time and story-n-craft down at the library. Two like-age and similar interest children would play in the sandbox or the living room under the watchful eye of whichever Mama was hosting. Healthy well-balanced snacks and beverages would be served, and were likely to be cut or arranged in the shape of some recognizable Disney character or prehistoric creature.
Of course, the two newest additions to my brood bypassed that stage entirely (lucky them, lucky me). But that doesn't mean they don't still have playdates.
Just yesterday, for instance, James had a couple buddies over. I never spoke to any Moms about it or glanced at my calendar. James called them up, asked if it was OK, and they came. Then instead of the sandbox, they did more teenage boy things. They begged for some cash and rode their bikes out to Burger King and the dollar store. They ate fattening fast food (no prehistoric creature shapes in sight) and drank sugary sodas. They hung out near the bridge and watched the cars whiz by (not the Matchbox variety) and drank a certain caffeine loaded drink in a can that James covets and I pretend to know he doesn't get from time to time. They talked, not about Bob the Builder or their favorite dinosaur, but about.... well I don't even really know what teenaged boys talk about. School? Girls? Movies?
In due time they came home, strutting and felling very manly with their small slice of independence. Then they spent a good deal of time blowing things to smithereens on XBox.

Boys, after all, will be boys. No matter the age.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Must be doin' somethin' right .....

Had a full docket this afternoon. Had to run out for appointments and carpools for about 4 hours, but lucky for me I've got great kids. One of my 12 year old girls cooked and served dinner for the rest of the kids. My oldest unloaded the dishwasher and my little guy emptied the kitchen trash and took it downstairs to the garage. All without adult supervision.

If I'm not careful I'm going to be out of a job soon....

Monday, September 6, 2010

Back to School, Back to Life as Usual

Well, after a long and hair-pullin' summer, the kids started back to school last Monday, followed by four days off for the holiday weekend.
In the final days of summer, James was actually saying he was excited about returning to school, seeing his friends every day, etc. This came a big shock to me. Huge. But then when I sat and thought about it, it made some sense.
When James first started school here, he had been home in America all of a month. He didn't know anyone outside of the family and didn't speak more than a couple handfuls of English. Aside from that, he knew neither the layout nor the routine of his new school in his new country. He did know how to shoot spitballs and fly paper airplanes. Some things for schoolboys after all, are universal.
Then, a few months after starting school, came summer break. And then fall. And he started anew again, still not knowing a whole lot of English or a whole lot of kids.

This fall, however, is a whole new wad of gum under the desk. Because now, 20 months since arriving home, he speaks (and reads) English pretty fluently. He has a lot of friends. He knows routines now, and expectations. And when he found out that his first period class contained just about all of his close friends, it truly was something to look forward to. Even in terms of the actual schoolwork, he isn't nearly as apprehensive as he was in months past. When Teacher lectures, he understands. When reading is required, he can comprehend. When confused, he can ask questions. He can even complain that the school lunch is crappy.

And so James starts this year of school as a freshman. Ready to learn, ready to act up with his friends, ready for a relatively normal year of school as a relatively normal student.

Now if I can only ready myself for another year as manager of the kids with their homework, projects, permission slips, field trips and after school activities I'll be OK.....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How do you spell 'cute'?

How do you spell 'will'?

How do you spell 'miss'?

How do you spell 'all'?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fresh Air Fund

New York City.
Long bus ride.
Meet new family.
In the country.
See cows grazing.
See plows working.

Smell by-products 8-(.

Greet brothers, sisters.
Hugs from family.
Swim in pool.
Pet the ponies.
Hold the bunnies.
Goodnight from bunk.

Bowl a strike!
Pick a tomato.
Family game night.
Family dinner time.
Say the grace.

See the pond.
Play with dogs.
Help with chores.
Play video games
(Rot the brain).

Form new friendships.
Count the stars.
Go for walks.
Chase the butterflies.
Discover new life.

Pack the bags.
Give hugs goodbye.
Promise to return.
Climb on bus.
Wave goodbye.
Home to Mommy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Frankenstein's Dog

Sunny was due to have her stitches removed today. So I took her to the vet and sat in the waiting room, biding time till it was our turn. In the chairs across from me were two towhead boys, both with missing teeth, patiently waiting for their dog to be released from the exam room.
It's been my experience that under normal circumstances, boys and dogs are magnetically drawn to each other. Evidently, Sunny knows this, too, and took one look at the youngsters and began lurching over towards them.
What I saw was my sweet yellow lab walking over to the boys with a big smile on her face and a wag of her tail.
What the children saw was a duct-taped, slobbery plastic cone collar flapping around and sounding like hillbilles playing the saw. They saw a shaved and swollen and red ear with wiry black sutures poking out of it every which way. They saw four feet, all with missing fur from being chewed, attached to an almost 100 pound body that couldn't seem to walk a straight line.

As she approached them, they involuntarily flinched and their faces wrinkled in undisguised disgust.

Taking a look at her from their eyes, I couldn't say as I blamed them......

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fence Fight

The fenceline between our lower field and the neighbors' manicured lawns runs along a hedgerow. With any luck, your collective memories are scanty as mine and you won't remember from last summer when I proudly posted that my girls and I patched it all up so the horses could graze in that field once again.
Not that our patches haven't held nicely to the effects of wind and weather and the push/pull nature of errant vines. I'm sure these are all new areas of the fenceline that have recently become red-carpet invitations for my horses to walk on through to where the grass is, quite literally, greener and weed-free.
Invitations with the not-so-surprising result that a neighbor woke up one early summer morning to a new, adorable lawn ornament in the form of our yearling colt Pippin.
After sheepishly collecting him, we returned him to our upper field where, all summer, along with his Mom Genevieve and his baby brother Finnegan and their six goat friends, they have chewed what little grass there was down to nubs. At this point, what with all the heat waves and grazing going on, we look like dirt farmers.

So I ordered some new fencing materials and waited for the perfect day low in humidity and high in childhood summer laziness, and ordered the troops outside to put in a couple hundred feet of fence.
You'll remember, I'm confident, the wails and moans from the cherry tree branches debacle. Similar effects can be obtained when mandating that their behinds get busy constructing a fence.
But get busy they did, and over two days' time they pounded in t-posts, measured distances, lugged wire panels into place and fought battles with little wire clips.
The big boys got to feel like the men they like to think they are as I handed them my keys and asked them to drive up to where the panels had been deposited, tie them to the back of my car (which is a wannbe pick-up truck) and drive them back down to where we were working.

At long last, after much toil and sweat and a healthy dose of bickering (I called the blue pliers!) the fence was complete and we turned the horses into the field. One mouthful of that sweet long grass and their eyes rolled back into their heads in delight.

We then took the kids into town for some water ice, where their eyes rolled back into.... oh you get the point.

Good job kids!

This is the field they were grazing on....

And this is their new and improved field.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Lab.... never again.

Sunny is only 4 years old. The prime of her life. Should be the picture of health. Instead I have this dog who chews herself to the point of oozing and whose sizable ears seem to take turns getting infections.
Sunny's latest ailment was a huge hematoma in her ear. Her ear looked like a giant engorged tick. In order to save yet another costly trip to the vet, I talked Fred into bringing a syringe home so he could drain it himself.

It did not go well. Blood and body fluids, a yelping, twisting 95 pound dog and a frustrated and disgusted surgeon-turned-vet does not make a pretty picture. And of course, like the Gulf oil geyser, the thing refilled in no time flat. Took her to the vet finally, piggy-backing her onto my regularly scheduled appointment with another dog and two cats, and the vet said to leave it alone and it might go away. Which, I think, is Fred's philosphy with our animals in general. But, like the philosophy, the vet's theory didn't work. The thing kept getting bigger. And bigger.

She finally got to the point where she was walking around with her head held sideways. Whether from discomfort or the actual weight of the thing I don't know. But we bit the bullet and scheduled the surgery. More than $600 later, and armed with a bag full to bursting with medications, I walked out the door with her in one of those E-collars. The vet told me she might bump into things for awhile, but there was a learning curve and she would soon get the hang of it. Thing of it is, Sunny's learning curve is more like a flat line, so she pretty much continuously walks into doorways and flips over kitchen stools.

Less than a week later we were back at the vet's because she managed to develop yet another ear infection
while she was on antibiotics.
They removed her bandage and gave me more antibiotics, a topical spray, and drops to put inside her ear.
She's still bumping into things and scraping everyone's legs and her collar is now duct-taped because she managed to rip the plastic from catching it on stuff so often.
Hey, at least she can't chew her legs right now.
And, if I want to remain positive, she has matured to the point where she pretty much only chews on herself, which is a good thing. In her younger days, she has been know to chew up pool noodles, hoses, pricey water pumps, and the siding on our house. I can truly say I have a dog who eats us out of house and home.

Marley's got nothin' on Sunny.

I hope you'll come check out my new location.  Visit me at my blog Life on the Funny Farm and say hi! 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Three slices of Amish to go, please ...

I know it's cliched to say the Amish are quaint. But my dealings with them last week left no other words on my lips. Read for yourself and then you be the judge:

Slice 1
Nine year old Fannie opened the screen door before I got up the steps and told me, sorry, they were out of eggs. Hmmm, I thought. This had been happening a lot since they moved a few months ago. Either out, or not enough to fill my usual order of about 3 - 4 dozen (a week's worth). The hens must not be diggin' their new digs.
I leaned in a little closer and said to the girl, "Do me a favor?"
Fannie was the egg-gatherer of the family and she was s tarting to look a little nervous now.
"Tell your hens to start laying more eggs."
She looked at me very seriously for just a moment, processing my request, then broke into a gap-toothed giggle.

Slice 2
Out picking up milk, I noticed more kids than usual running about the place. I asked Katie if she had relatives visiting, but she said no, she was just watching some neighbor kids for a few hours. Next thing I knew, I heard a brisk clip-clop turning into the barnyard. I turned in time to see a little chocolate and cream miniature horse turning in off the road, pulling a cart full of grinning and laughing Amish kids, all outfitted in their usual straw hats and suspenders and aprons and bonnets. The boy at the wheel, so to speak, expertly pulled his charge up to the barn and in the blink of an eye the cart was unloaded and the kids clambered all over the pony like termites on a log, unbuckling the leather straps of his harness. Within seconds the little horse was free of his trappings, walked into the barn, and the cart parked. Why is it that my kids can't even put their cereal boxes away?

Slice 3
A couple days later I was at the same farm. While Katie was filling my milk order, I noticed her husband walking their new horse from the barn out to the paddock. He turned him loose, then shut the gate and leaned on the fence railings to evaluate his newest piece of horse flesh. Soon enough, their oldest son joined him, and he leaned identically against the fence, watching the horse in the manliest way he was able. Father and son were near mirror images of each other in their black woolen pants with suspenders, worn work boots, blue cloth shirts and straw hats. It seems no matter the culture, older men and younger men will convene together and talk cars.
But then as I was leaving, I noticed their youngest son had also joined in the observation and discussion. Between father and teenaged son, squatted down on his haunches and peering through the fence, was their three year old boy. Red hair sprouted from under his straw hat, and he wore the identical black pants, suspenders and blue shirt that his elders wore. But as I drove past, he turned to wave, still squatted down, and I saw he was clutching in his arms a cast-off rag doll from one of his older sisters.

Quanit? Please. The word doesn't even begin to descibe the scene.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

End of Days

Madiyar's and James' time together is drawing to a close. Madiyar will board the plane to head back to Mass tomorrow morning, bringing to an end their nearly three weeks together, first at M's house, then at ours.
I thought they would get bored, or at a minimum irritable with each other, but I didn't see that happen.
While James was at Madiyar's, they went to their vacation spot in the mountains and played tennis; swam in the pool and the lake and splashed in the creek; went hiking and up into the mountains and explored caves; rode their bikes to the dollar store to buy candy; watched movies both on the big screen and from the couch at home.
When at our house, they played ping-pong, swam in the pool and jumped off a bridge (literally). They rode their bikes to the dollar store to buy candy; watched movies both on the big screen and from the couch at home. They went to the beach one day and to Hershey Park the next.
They're still going strong.
Me? I'm ready to drop.....

Climbing onto the bridge.....

I can't look!

Crazy flips

Swimmin' like fish

Boogie Boardin'

Walking the jetties
in Barnegat Light

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Spa Day

My blog's getting a girl's night out at the spa. Stay tuned for a full, three-years-in-the-waiting, makeover.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Is it b/c I'll be getting a "new" kid for a week next month?
Is it b/c one of my "old" kids will be returning home in a few days after an absence of a week and a half?
Or is it b/c deep down I'm a closet OCD maniac who never gets her fix?

Whatever the reason, yesterday was the first honest to goodness day I've had this summer that I didn't have to cart one of the kids off to a doctor/dentist/orthodontist or lesson. I had no groceries to shop, no dry cleaning to drop. I had no vet, no farrier, no wormings to tend to.

So what did I do? I revamped the girls' closets, handing down, throwing out, storing away for later. I overhauled Mission Control in my kitchen where I track appointments and activities, homework, due dates for books and DVDs, and the perpetually incoming permission slips. And I organized to within an inch of its life the arts and craft shelf in our so-called Dining Room (insert air quotes here).

I had all the earmarks of a mother-to-be in her nesting phase. But I know this organizational mania was induced, not by pregnancy hormones, but instead by a rainy summer day while I was one child down and had the soothing sounds of a Monopoly battle in the background as white noise.

Looking around at my house, I need a lot more of those days ......

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fancy Pants

My sister Mary just gave her website/blog a makeover and it looks faaaaabulous, dahling. Check it out .....

Friday, July 9, 2010

He Le-eft, on a Jetplane ....

Yesterday, I watched James board the airplane to fly solo out to stay with his best friend for a week+. He was met at the airport by Madiyar and his Mom (my good friend Dee) and she whisked them home where the boys have been busy making runs to the dollar store, going for walks together, eating pizza and watching movies. Today they are loading up the van and driving out to their family vacation spot, where they will fish, swim, explore and, you guessed it, eat pizza and watch movies (de rigueur stuff for teenaged boys).
When James flies home next w/e, he will do so in the company of Madiyar, and M will stay with us for about 10 days where they will...oh you know the drill.

Here's to James and Madiyar having a wonderful best friends reunited blast together over the next nearly three weeks.
Here's to Dee getting a small break when the boys are with me for a bit.
And here's to me getting a break while the boys are with her.
I miss him, but it is so nice to have, not one less mouth to feed, but one less mouth to argue. I feel more relaxed already, even after only one day, from not feeling quite so "on guard", ever on alert for the latest confrontation.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

If it worked for him ......

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo! News and The Huffington Post, he {Warren Buffett} credited his father for teaching him how to live, and explained that all parents can make a "better human being" by offering their children unconditional love:

The power of unconditional love. I mean, there is no power on earth like unconditional love. And I think that if you offered that to your child, I mean you’re 90 percent of the way home. There may be days when you don’t feel like it, it’s not uncritical love, that’s a different animal, but to know you can always come back, that is huge in life. That takes you a long, long way. And I would say that every parent out there that can extend that to their child at an early age, it’s going to make for a better human being.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

4th of July Tie Dye

My sister and her hubby and their new baby were visitin' with us and we all went a little crazy dying things red white and blue to show our patriotic colors.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Broken Child

With the help of my other sons, we righted the table.
Rolling fruit was gathered and washed.
Jagged ceramic lay in pieces on the floor.
The dish, a gift, looked broken beyond repair.
I gathered the fragments together and began placing them in a sack to be discarded.

The dish wasn't the only broken thing here.
My son, full of teen angst and layers of past traumas, had flipped this table over in a moment of rage.
Not a rage over the losses in his life or the hurts he's endured, but over the latest insurmountable injustice. He didn't get the seat he wanted when it came time to watch a movie, and this insignificant precipitator had escalated and swollen till its enormity could not be controlled.

Sweeping up the broken bits too small to be gathered by hand, I wondered,
Could I fix my child?

Such arrogance to pose that question.

Logical Me knew well enough that you can't undo the hurt caused by years of neglect, drug use, lead paint, institutionalization, and abuse physical, mental and emotional simply by gifting a child a room of his own, nice clothes, a pool, and a family vacation down the shore.

But Melodramatic Me fantasized that by showering him with our unconditional love and support (and a good dose of professional therapy), maybe, just maybe, he could turn whole again. That if the light of our love could seek out and illuminate the darkest recesses of his hurt, it would be enough to negate all that happened in his past.

Could love, support, and Stuff eradicate a person's traumatic past?

Listening to the muted rumble of him trashing his room upstairs, it was looking as if the answer was no.

Still, I had to believe that all this drama is part of the healing process he must go through to recalibrate. He was functioning just fine in his old life until I came along and opened up his wounds. He barely gave a thought to his scars, his lack of a family. A pack of rowdy boys roaming the streets and doing the things unsupervised boys do served fine as a family. And scars were just that, scars. They had long ago healed and were nothing more than part of his physical terrain. He gave them no more thought than he would one of his freckles.

A person could walk along through life impaled by a staff. Perhaps once in a while, if he weren't careful, it might become a problem, it might hurt if he got it caught on something. But if it spared organs and arteries, a person could function, certainly. Remove that staff, and now you've got exposed, raw, painful flesh. That wound will ache. It will heal, but it will take time and it will hurt like the dickens for a good long while. And without proper care, the gash could become worse before it gets better. Could become inflamed, infected.

Of course this is Melodramatic Me at my finest here, but I'm trusting that's what we're dealing with. A case of old wounds opened up and aggravated. Every instance of loss of control becomes like a cattle prod in the bared gash. On a good day he can bite the bullet as he controls himself and the pain subsides. On a bad day he becomes a wounded, cornered, wild animal acting out in self preservation.

I cut my finger on a piece of the shattered ceramic. I watched the blood trickle down my hand and drop to the floor, mingling with the dust of the broken dish and my tears, which had been raining down steadily. I stood and moved to the sink, and washed the blood from my negligible nick. Probably wouldn't even need a Band Aid.

In a moment, my son appeared, standing at my shoulder.
Through his own tears, and barely able to look at me, he murmered his apologies, then walked outside. I completed my task, then went outside to talk to him, Big Lectures beginning to form in my mind. But as I closed the kitchen door and walked into the night, I turned and found my son leaning against the deck railing, looking out over the pond and illuminated by the light of the moon. He was crying. Sobbing.
The lecture could wait. I stood beside him and reached up to put my arm around his shoulders. And we stood together like that for some time, quietly crying together.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hold the cherries .....

The other day Fred went a little crazy pruning some of our fruit trees (cheap therapy). After he came in all sweaty and scratched up, I surveyed his handiwork. Looked like a tornado hit. There were branches everywhere and our poor trees looked like, well, poor trees.
He waved his hand in a sweeping motion to indicate the arborial slaughter and said, "Perhaps you could have the kids pick these branches up tomorrow".
"And do what with them" I inquired curiously.
He hesitated when the proportion of the problem sunk in and then muttered, "Just have them throw them into the side pen and I'll clear them into the ravine with the tractor another time".
Oh, another time. Our famous words. The translate loosely to "It'll never git dun".
But ever willing to serve my darling husband's wishes, the next day I rallied the troops and told them it was time to go move some branches.
"Why, was there a storm?"
"No, your Dad trimmed the trees."
There followed some wailing and moaning of biblical proportions, but they managed to rip their bottoms from the couches and chairs and head outside to survey the damage.
New round of wailing and moaning. But I stayed the course, assuring them they would have No Fun of Anykind until this chore was completed. They slumped their shoulders to the point of defying gravity. Physics would dictate they should fall over with their shoulders rounded forward to such a degree, but upright they remained.
Once they were underway I headed back inside to moan and wail over the chores I needed to start in on. After a bit, as I was cleaning in the kitchen, I saw a bowl of cherries on the kitchen table. Some of the kids had picked those yesterday and weren't they yummy. I popped a couple in my mouth and went about my business, but some nagging issue was starting to solidify in my mind. It started as a vapor but continued to take shape as I moved along, chewing my cherries. Into the trash I spit the pits, and the fog of a problem finally took shape. I picked up the phone and called Fred, who was out at the tractor store.
"When you were trimming the trees, did you happen to cut any of the cherry tree branches?"
"Yeah, some, why?"
"Because the wilted leaves of cherry trees are toxic to goats and horses!" I yelped, revealing that on rare occassions my brain was capable of retreiving pertinent information.
"Well just tell the kids not to throw them into the side pen"
"Too late, they've been at it for awhile now."
"Well then ....."
But I had already hung up the phone and raced outside.
And yep, there were the goats, clambering over the growing branch pile like ants on a watermelon rind, munching happily away. I yelled for the kids to stop throwing branches in, ran into the pen and chased all the goats out.

The kids were staring at me like I had finally lost my mind.

I scanned the ground and found the offending item I was looking for. I waved it over my head for all to see.
"See this? This is a cherry tree branch!
They were looking sideways at each other now, finding it amusing that Mom was becoming so unhinged right before their eyes.
"We need to go through these piles of branches right now and remove ALL of them."
"WHAT?! We just put them all in!"
"I know, I know, but cherry tree branches are poisonous to goats and horses"
Bella started to cry. "You mean all our horses and goatie-goats are gonna DIE?!"
"No, honey, only if they eat the leaves after they get all brown and shriveled. But we have to get them out of here now before they eat any more."
"But I don't want to touch them if they're POIsonous!"
"No, honey, they're not poisonous to touch. Just if they're eaten."
"But I eat cherries all the time!"
"The cherries aren't poisonous. Just the leaves. And only if they're all brown and wilted. And only to goa..... oh never mind, just get in here and start taking out any branches that have leaves that look like this. And any leaves on the ground that might have gotten ripped off the branches when you threw them in. Pretend it's like an Easter egg hunt."

So the kids now began working in reverse, pulling out any cherry tree branches they had thrown in only minutes before, deconstructing their giant bird's nest. It was kinda like playing Pick-up-Sticks only with giant, scratchy, interwoven branches instead of skinny little colorful sticks. Had I recorded the children as they undid all their hard work, I could have sold it to a movie studio to be used as audio for a scene where family members look thorough a bloody battlefield to find their fallen loved ones all disemboweled and decapitated. The moaning had reached its pinnacle at this point. But I have to give credit where credit is due. They did it. Our side pen was once again a habitable pen for our four-legged friends. Our one-day-to-be-removed-to-the-ravine-branch-pile had now reached new heights and could probably be seen from the town center.

Just then Fred came home and asked how he was supposed to mow the grass with this big pile of cherry tree branches in the way.

I had a few choice ideas of what he coud do with the branches, but it is my intent to keep this blog G-rated, so I'll not post my suggestions here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The envelope please....

Thanks to all for the name suggestions for our newest furry family member. After much debate and hair-pulling, we have chosen.
And his name shall be called Finnegan.

Since he's 1/2 Irish (Dad is a Gypsy Cob), 1/4 French and 1/4 Welsh (Mom is 1/2 Percheron, 1/2 Welsh Cob), we knew we wanted something Irish. Finnegan apparently means "Little Fair One", which, with his icy blue eyes and his black and white coloring seemd to fit him just fine.

Here he is in this picture with Mom Genevieve and big brother Pippin.

He's doing quite well in this new world of his. He seems to like the feel of his legs underneath him and the all-you-can-eat-24/7 buffet, but he doesn't care for the flies.
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