Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, December 31 was a night full of potential.  It was full of hope and promise, and it was billed to be the best night of the year.  Somehow, for over a decade, I searched elusively for that perfect night.  Here are some examples:

1993-1994: When I was 18 and a senior in high school, I spent New Year's Eve at Sea World in Orlando.  I was performing in the halftime show of the Citrus Bowl the next day.  It was a cold and rainy night, and we rang in the new year watching fireworks from outside the park, waiting to board the bus.

1994-1995: (my freshman year in college) I spent New Year's Eve at First Night Albany (remember that Anne?).  It was again raining, and Albany was a lot colder than Orlando.  After the excitement of college, First Night Albany was very tame.  And cold.

1995-1996: (my sophomore year in college) I was up at University of New Hampshire with my college roommate.  It was actually a very good night, and we spent the first day of 1996 in recliner's in her parents' house, unable to move from all the fun we'd had the night before.

1996-1997: (my junior year in college) I returned back to college early so my roommates and I could attend a party.  The night ended with a bloody guy on the steps of our building, and a call from the police about it.  Luckily, it was none of us, and we never really found out what happened.  Our night was ok, but at least we weren't bleeding.

1997-1998: (my senior year in college) my ex-boyfriend and I went out with his roommate and girlfriend.  It was about 10 degrees in Boston, and I distinctly remember literally freezing walking around.  The highlight of the night was accidentally opening my ex-boyfriend's other roommate's bottle of Dom Peringon (there were several bottles in the fridge, and we didn't realize that this one was special, or worth about $200).

1998-1999:  (grad school) I was home and went out with my brother and his friends.  Highlight of the night was seeing Matt's band play.

1999-2000:  This should have been a special one.  I was in Florida with friends from college.  We had all graduated and were out in the real world, most of us as of yet unsuccessful in finding PT jobs. We were heading to Ybor City, and our limo was very late in arriving.  Ybor City was crowded and chaotic, and I missed entering the new millennium.  I remember looking at my watch and it was about 2 minutes until midnight.  Next time I looked, it was about 2 minutes after.  The biggest countdown of my life and I missed it.  Oh, and the limo left us stranded there for hours.

2000-2001:  Pat and I were together for this one.  We were all dressed up and going to a First Night Celebration in Columbus.  The hotel was crowded, and the lines were long.  Our friend bought a bottle of very very sweet champagne to split.  Drinking it made you feel like you wanted to shave your teeth.

Some of the next years kind of blur together.  Of note, we spent the first night in our house on New Year's Eve 2003-2004.  I was seven months pregnant with Jake.  We had not yet moved all our furniture in, so our mattress and box spring were on the floor in the baby's room, while we finished the floors in our bedroom.  Our TV was on top of a box, and being that low to the ground made it difficult to get up out of bed to go to the bathroom, as was needed multiple times per night.  We watched the movie Angel Heart, and flipped over just in time to see the ball drop.

With young kids, it's been difficult.  A lot of times, it's more pressure to go out than it's worth.  There is all this build up, and, as described above, the evening rarely lives up to the hype.

Plus, it's cold.  Let's not forget the cold.

For the past few years, Pat has slept while I waited up for the new year to ring in.  I luckily have a friend whose husband does the same thing, and we spend the evening texting each other.

This year, we didn't even attempt to make plans.  We took the kids bowling today, and went to the library with them.  We did a family market run and, despite the crowded-ness of Hanniford, it went very well.  Pat and I made fondue, which his family had always had for New Year's Eve.  When it was ready, we sat around the coffee table and enjoyed the fondue, just the four of us.  We talked about high points of the year (end of First Grade for Jake, Christmas for Sophia), as well as low points (losing Mimere).  We talked about our resolutions.  Everyone helped clean up the coffee table, and then we played a family game of Battleship.

So there are about 4 hours left in the year.  There won't be a champagne (Dom Peringon or otherwise) toast at midnight.  I may not even stay up that late this year.  But I can say, I think I finally found the perfect New Year's Eve.

I wish everyone a healthy, safe and happy new year!  See you in 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dear Jake and Sophia,

Today, we had a perfect moment.  It was just after lunch.  I settled in on one end of the couch, while the two of you settled in on the other, and we were facing each other.  We were all sharing the fuzzy blanket.  I was reading my nook, and Jake, you read a book to Sophia.  It was so content and peaceful.  It's how life should be. I thought about getting up to get the camera to immortalize the moment, but knew that would ruin it.

I want you both to know how special siblings are.  You are very, very lucky to have each other.  Some people do not ever get the chance to have siblings.  Some people, like Dad, lose their siblings much, much too early.  Please always try to remember that.  Siblings are the first friends we have in life.  If we're lucky, they stay our friends throughout our whole lives.  Siblings have shared our childhood.  They can laugh at the jokes that only you get.   They remember the hard times too, and help each other get through it.  No one will love you like your sibling does.  They get the first shot at you (that only they are allowed to take), but are also your last defense standing against the cruel, cruel world.

My advice to you two is this:  Cherish each other.  Appreciate each other.  Protect each other.  Motivate and challenge each other.  Be there for each other.  Support each other.  Love each other.

Do not let the world come in between you.  Act appropriately so that neither is forced to chose between your sibling and your spouse.  Do not put Dad and I in the middle of your quarrels.

There will be times when you disagree.  Please, figure out a way to work it out.  Siblings are too precious to cast aside.  Believe me, I know.

Love, Mom

Monday, December 26, 2011


****WARNING:  This is a soap box post.  It is what I think and I believe.  It is me, exercising my first amendment rights.  You don't have to agree with me, but think carefully about what I say.***

Right now, Pat and I are watching a TV show that I like to call the "Feel Good Show of the Year."  In the TV guide, it is listed as Intervention.  For those of you not familiar, it is a show about an addict and the family stages an intervention in attempts to help save the person's life.  The current episode is about a 22 year old addict who has turned to prostitution.  She has a 3 year old son, who is being raised by his father.  This young woman was born to an 18 year old mother who was incapable of caring for her daughter. She dropped her daughter off on her father's doorstep at the age of 3.  Her father cared more about partying and women than of being a parent and his parenting strategy was just to buy his young daughter stuff.  He was on his second or third wife by the time the girl was 12, and, when she (big shock here) developed behavior problems, they sent her to "camps" in Costa Rica and Jamaica for over a year, until the "camps" were closed for abuse and human rights violations. Her father was unaware that his daughter was being abused (he had never even visited, just sent her to one where the brochure looked nice) until a reporter contacted him and told him what was going on there.  So, now, she's a suicidal crack-whore, and the father had the nerve to complain that her expenses (food, hotel, legal costs) has run him about $20,000 in the past year.

What this man does not realize is that money is not a substitute for actual parenting.  If he had actually been a father to this girl, she would not be in this position.

Having the ability to physically reproduce does not make one able to be a parent.  Being a parent is hard.  Really hard. It takes a lot of sacrifice.  It means putting other people's needs ahead of yours. Always.  It means sacrificing, planning.  It is full of heart ache and heart break.  But it is also the most rewarding experience I can think of.

I work with countless children who are underfed, not properly clothed, do not get taken to the doctors regularly (if ever) and desperately need to be hugged.  They are not read to and not nurtured.  Most are not only children.  The teachers are held responsible for 100% of the educational process, as nothing happens at home.  These parents are not concerned with academics, but contact the teachers because they are upset that their Kindergartner's white, $70 addidas sneakers got dirty at recess.  These parents don't bathe or clean their children, and keep having more that they cannot or will not care for.

I am so frustrated by people who believe that they are entitled to everything, and that hard work is something to be ashamed of.  There are children being born into generation after generation of this mindset, with no desire to improve.  Working in a fast food restaurant is demeaning, but collecting every social benefit known to man is not.  And in this season of giving, people were coming out of the woodwork asking for donations.  I know that I am fortunate.  We have a lot and my children do not want for anything. But, asking for a social agency/school/church to provide your Christmas (but we can't even say Merry Christmas...another soap box), but then asking for designer clothes and high tech items...there is confusion as to "wants" and "needs."  If you have an iphone 4S, smoke (at $9/pack), get your nails done or drive an Escalade, you do not need free lunch for your kids. I do not need to be buying your child toys because you don't want to.

In order to adopt a dog, you have to get pass a rigorous screening, including a home visit.  You have to take a test to drive a car or a license to even catch a fish.  But anyone can have a kid.  And you can repeatedly screw the kid up, and the popular thought is that "biological is best" so that if you screw up your kid sooo badly, they might take him or her away to be raised by the people who screwed you up in the first place.

I have been having a difficult time with my daughter the past week.  Her behavior is more like a 14 year old than a 4 year old.  I don't know what to do.  Being a parent to my son has in no way prepared me for parenting my daughter.  I have been agonizing over what to do, and how to get through to her. I have gone through similar periods of agony in parenting my son, especially with his unique set of needs.

I don't know if I would have passed the parenting test, but Lord knows, I try.  I am not the best mother out there, but I know I'm not the worst.  I want to instill in my children a value of responsibility and ownership of one's actions rather than entitlement.  I worry that the society they are growing in will squash these values.

I know that our societal irresponsibility is a major contributing factor to our current economic and educational crises.  Until people begin to take ownership rather than feel entitlement, the situation is only going to continue to worsen. No politician will be able to fix the problem without admitting what it actually is.  People need to take responsibility for themselves. So that means, if you can't afford to feed your child, don't have one.  If you'd rather be out partying with your friends, don't have a kid.  If you can't afford food or furniture, don't buy designer clothes that your kids are going to grow out of in a few months.  If you aren't working, you should not be using your benefit money to buy cigarettes.  If I have to pass a drug test to earn the money to pay for social benefits, then you should have to pass a drug test to receive them.

Almost done with the ranting here.  During the above described program, there have been several commercials for the ASPCA.  See, this is what's wrong with us--we are listening to a story about people who cannot take care of their children and horribly screw them up, but then are asked for money to prevent cruelty to animals.  Now, I am not advocating for animal cruelty, but when we, as humans, can't even take care of the most vulnerable members of our own, does our first priority really need to be cats and dogs?  Thanks to new legislation, such as Buster's Law, people found being cruel to animals are severely punished.  Yet, people abuse their children every day, and nothing happens.

Until we get our priorities straight, we are headed more and more steadily downhill.  It just makes me frustrated.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Not far off...

So, I was really not that far off in my post yesterday...
By Jenifer GoodwinHealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Ever unload the dishwasher while helping with a child's homework? Ever keep one eye on soccer practice while checking your voice mail and trying to figure out what to make for dinner?
That's called multitasking, and in a fast-paced world, American working moms do a whole lot of it -- and seem more stressed by it than working dads, a new study shows.
According to the research, working mothers spend 9 more hours a week multitasking than do working fathers, or about 48 hours per week for moms compared with 39 for dads.
And, when they have to multitask, women don't particularly enjoy it.
The research found that when women are trying to do multiple things at once, they report feeling stressed, while men don't seem to mind it as much. Researchers say it could be because men's multitasking at home more often involves work, while women's involves combining household chores and child-rearing, which may leave them feeling conflicted and guilty.
Among working mothers, 53 percent of multitasking at home involves housework compared with 42 percent among working fathers. Additionally, 36 percent of women's multitasking at home involves child care compared with 28 percent for fathers.
"The hours men spend in household labor have increased, but when you include multitasking, then you are able to see women are still shouldering more of the household responsibilities than men," said study co-author Barbara Schneider, a professor of sociology and education at Michigan State University.
The study is published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review.
Researchers used data from the 500 Family Study, which provided comprehensive information from 1999 to 2000 on U.S. families living in eight urban and suburban communities across the nation. The 368 mothers and 241 fathers in the current study typically have college degrees, are employed in professional occupations, work long hours and report higher earnings than do middle-class families in other nationally representative samples.
Previous research has found that women feel overburdened with work and family responsibilities, and feel they have too little time to attend to both, according to background information in the study.
The percentage of professional women working at least 50 hours a week has more than doubled, from 6 percent in the 1970s to 14 percent in the late 2000s, according to background information in the study, while the increase among men was 34 percent to 38 percent.
In almost 30 percent of all dual-earner couples with children, at least one spouse works a nonstandard daytime schedule, and in almost half of these couples at least one spouse works during the weekend.
Meanwhile, technology and increasing workplace demands have led to a blurring of the line between work and home. All this may be fueling more and more multitasking as parents try to do more than one task simultaneously -- like talking on the phone while folding laundry -- and get done more in limited time, researchers said.
To track multitasking, participants wore a wristwatch that beeped at seven random times throughout waking hours. Participants then responded to a short survey, which asked what they were doing, what they were thinking about and how they were feeling psychologically.
Working moms are multitasking about two-fifths of their waking hours, Schneider said.
What can be done to alleviate the pressure on moms?
Getting dads to not just pitch in more, but to share more equally in the child care and housework would help, Schneider said. In other words, don't just take your daughter to gymnastics when your wife says she can't do it. Make that your job to take her to gymnastics every week.
And for that matter, getting the kids to do more can help. Housework and yard work doesn't seem half as bad when the whole family works together to get chores done. Moms in particular feel positive about working together as a family, she added.
"Doing these things together, whether it's cleaning up or wrapping presents or whatever it is you need to do; when mom isn't the one out there till 9 p.m. trying to get it all done, these are the kinds of things that make a family run smoothly as a unit," Schneider said.
Moms also need to ease up some on themselves. Be aware that multitasking can leave you stressed and feeling pulled in too many directions, so try, as hard as it is, to do just one thing at once and accept you may not be able to do everything you wanted to do.
More flexible schedules and workplace cultures that support families -- whether that's allowing people to work from home or limiting expectations that employees will take work home -- can also help working parents, she added.
"The bar for being a good parent, the normative values of being a good mother, have gotten very high, and that leave mothers feeling a lot of pressure and stress," Schneider said.
Ann Bookman, an adjunct senior lecturer at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management in Waltham, Mass., said there are many anectodal reports of women feeling overburdened by the demands of combining family and work life. The study, Bookman said, suggests that the demands of multitasking may be at the root of some of their stress.
"This incredible focus on maximizing productivity at every moment has tremendous social and public health costs," Bookman said. "That's why a study like this is so important. It's not just that we have a sense that we and others are feeling overwhelmed. If you take a sample and very carefully analyze the numbers, you can begin to see in very graphic terms that women are still the primary caregivers and we are asking them to do just as much in the workforce."
Over time, repeated bouts of stress may take a toll, she added.
"It impacts the body and your psychological state, and the researchers are providing the evidence for really seeing multitasking as a significant public health issue for women," Bookman added.
(I did like the part about multi-tasking stressing women more than men. I think that is because my definition of multi-tasking is performing 2 to 3 tasks at the same time, while my husband's definition of multi-tasking is performing more than one task in the same day.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So, I've seriously been meaning to write.  For, like 2 weeks now.  About Mommy ADHD.  But it's taken me this long because I keep getting distracted.

No joke.

Mommy ADHD is a serious problem, affecting up to 100% of mothers.  Ok, I don't really know that, but I'm just guessing because every mom I talk to knows what I'm talking about.

Mommy ADHD is commonly noticed when trying to accomplish an insurmountable number of tasks in an unreasonably short period of time.  For example, prepping for and cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  With young children around.  While working. 

For those 0.0001% of you not familiar with Mommy ADHD, here is a typical (and pretty true) case study.
  • Task:  Clean off the dining room table (45% covered with miscellaneous items) to be used for Thanksgiving dinner (or actually any meal, for that matter).
  • Estimated time start to completion: 30 minutes
  • Actual time start to completion: 4 days
  • Task analysis for catastrophic time failure:  Walk into dining room.  Notice cat vomit on floor.  Clean up.  While throwing out paper towels, realize garbage is overflowing.  Empty garbage.  While taking garbage out, notice that kids coats and shoes are all over the floor.  Pick those up.  Return to dining room.  Hear the kids wrestling and screaming in the next room.  Go in, break up the fight.  See husband's socks on living room floor.  Pick up and bring upstairs to laundry.  Go back downstairs.  Remove first item from table.  Elapsed time, 10 minutes.  Bring first item (and the only item that actually belongs to you) from dining room table to your room.  Notice computer, check e-mail, Facebook, harvest my farm.  Elapsed time, 45 minutes.  Notice more screaming/wrestling/thudding from living room.  Go downstairs, break up fight.  Herd children into kitchen for lunch.  Make 2 separate lunches, because we can't agree on anything.  Take plates out of dishwasher to save a step.  Realize that the dishes are overwhelming the sink.  Start to unload the dishwasher.  Phone rings.  Go to get the cordless phone.  Discuss with friend latest school crisis/husband idiot-ness/hottest gossip.  Retrieve items 2 and 3 off dining room table and put away while talking on phone.  Elapsed time, 65 minutes.  Walk back into kitchen, notice 1/2 unloaded dishwasher still open.  Take 3 dishes out and put away.  Stop and clean up spilled orange juice.  Remind child to be careful with cup.  Refill cup.  End conversation with friend, hang up phone in living room.  Notice candy wrappers on end table from husband.  Pick up to throw out.  Hear child ask for a paper towel.  Go in to kitchen, clean up spill #2.  Finish unloading dishwasher. Begin loading dishwasher.  Stop and get dessert for children.  Finish loading dishwasher and hand washing dishes.  Bring dishtowels up to laundry room.  Realize that clothes are still in the washer.  Put clothes in dryer.  Go back to the dining room.  Put away  items 4-6. (This scenario is pretty true to form. To get ready to go out of town and to get ready for Thanksgiving, I started making lists of what I had to get done on a dry erase board. Somehow, having the ability to cross something off the list helped keep the focus. I got a lot accomplished. But it also kicked my ass and I'm so exhausted that I can't get moving to do anything else.)   Total elapsed time, 125 minutes. To clear 6 items, 3 of which were pencils.

Contributing factors to Mommy ADHD:  children, husbands (may also be classified in children category), work, pets, children, Facebook, dishes and dirt, paperwork sent home from school.

I'm not sure what else to do about Mommy ADHD.  Coffee certainly helps.  But if I want to have a stomach lining when I'm older, I need to watch it.  The less focused I am, the more out of control I feel.  It quickly spirals down into overwhelming anxiety and depression.  It's just, well, there aren't enough hours in the day and enough of me.  I need a wife to help me out with all I have to do.

Please note that although I've been thinking about this post for 2 weeks, it has taken me almost an hour to write.  Of course, that's because I had to get up 3 times to tuck child in, find child's lost blanket, get child drink and tuck child in again.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Little Bear

So, thanks to Election Day (which can barely be counted, considering many of the candidates in Colonie are running un-opposed) and Vetrans' Day, my kids have a really short week.  They are home on Tuesday and Friday.  Which happen to be my two days off.  Which means childcare will not be an issue.  But which mean I get no time to do my mommy things, like grocery shopping and cleaning.  Also, my husband is in California, so it's all me.  Ok, it's all me with some help from my parents.  But I have 12 days of being on duty, 24/7.

So, today was day off #1.  I blissfully turned the alarm off last night.  Silly me.  I was awakened suddenly to Jake's face about 3 cm from mine at 6:00 am.  After my heart started beating again, I tried to get him to go back to bed.  Instead, he laid down with me.  I don't know if he fell back asleep, because I certainly did.  Until 6:20 am when Sophia came noisily bounding in.  That was it for Jake sleeping.  By 6:35, they were sitting on top of me playing rocks, paper scissors.  I cursed daylight savings for ending and not telling my kids.  I cursed my husband in California for getting to sleep uninterrupted.  I cursed my kids for not being old enough to make me a cup of coffee.

We met a friend for bowling and lunch.  The kids played well together.  Until the world's slowest service at Friendly's.  It's kind of no wonder the chain is going bankrupt.  I mean, 2 adults, 4 kids, and it still took an hour and a half for lunch.  When we go out just adults, we're hard pressed to sit at the table that long! 

Back to home, snuggling with Sophia, and then I put her in for a nap.  Jake asked to watch some TV in my room while I waste time on the computer.  After seeing all the choices, he picked Little Bear.  He used to love the show when he was a toddler/preschooler.  It was the first time we got to see his sense of humor as he would sit and laugh and laugh.  He just got it.  When Jake was 3 or 4, and his Asperger's was very apparent, he had difficulty with free play.  His play was usually scripted from a TV show.  He could repeat the show, verbatim, and would intentionally change parts to fit his situation.  He spent endless hours acting out scenes from Little Bear.  Today's show was one of his favorites.

Jake is almost eight.  He's not that much shorter than I am (ok, not saying much).  Pretty soon, he's gonna be too cool to hang out with me.  He's gonna be too busy to sit back and enjoy a quiet afternoon together.  Although I can't imagine it, I know there will be a day when he doesn't want to snuggle, or hold my hand.  But for this 30 minutes, I'm gonna just soak in the fact that he still "gets" Little Bear.  And that he will always be by Little Boy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And Life Goes On

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind.  My grandmother went from having an"upset" stomach to passing away.  On Saturday, she was dusting her apartment. By the following Saturday, she was being buried. Despite the fact that she had 93 years on this earth, it went all too quickly.  I just can't believe that it's all over.  Now, we have the unenviable task of cleaning out her apartment.

We moved my grandmother into her apartment 6 years ago.  I am thankful that we had sort of weaned things out then.  My grandmother was impeccably neat.  However, she hid a great secret. She was a secret hoarder.  The woman saved EVERYTHING.  While that is charming when it comes to birthday cards, drawings, school show programs and obituaries, it loses something when we are talking about the tags from clothing.  And the free address labels sent to her by any charity that thought she would give them money (and this includes the address labels from her old address).  And elastic from the 1960's that had lost its stretch.  And plastic rain bonnets.  Seriously, the plastic rain bonnet companies are going to go out of business now that she is not supporting them.  I think we found at least 25 stashed here and there.  There were a lot of things stashed here and there.

But we found a letter that my uncle had sent from Vietnam in January 1967.  We found the cards and letters she received when her parents died in 1942 and 1944.  She lost both of her parents in the span of 18 months.  She was alone in the world by the age of 25. 

There is a lot of junk to get rid of.  There are things that others can use.  This year, with so many who lost so much, we hope that donating her things can help others.  It is the very essence of who she was.  I'm having a hard time parting with her things though.  Because the "things" have memories tied to them.  Like the Hush Puppies pumps.  I remember yearly trips to the outlets (both Lake George and Manchester) to get them.  She had at least 6 pairs, never worn.  We promptly brought those to my church's clothing drive. 

A small glass dish with a lid holds significance for always having peppermint patties.  That's now with my cousin. The 1970's Tupperware cups that we and now my kids always drank out of.  They will continue to use those cups.

I could go on and on about my grandmother. 

But I need to stay in the present.  And keep moving forward, rather than looking back.  We are trying to keep things as normal as possible.  Especially for Jake and Sophia.  And they are keeping things normal for us. They had a good Halloween, and are looking forward to Thanksgiving.  Which will be hard for all of us this year. I plan on using a lot of my grandmother's dishes, especially the ones from her mother.  She was always so pleased when she got to see her stuff being used. 

We're gonna keep on, keeping on.  But with a hole in our hearts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting is the hardest part

I write this as I sit in the hospital room with my grandmother, waiting for her to die.  She is truly at the end of her life, and all there is left for her to do is to pass on.  She is 93.

This is awful.

She never wanted to end up in a hospital bed, unable to move, unable to speak.  We have never wanted it for her.

She has commented for many years that she doesn't know why she is still here.  She has been ready for her heavenly reward for many years.

My grandmother is a wonderful woman.  Stoic is her middle name.  Actually, it's Slavin, but Stoic is a better fit.  She's also tiny, and everyone loves her.  Even in the ER on Sunday night, people were commenting on how cute she was.  Osteoporosis has not been kind and she is about 4'6."  When I would come over to visit, she would say, "Oh good, a tall person is here.  Can you get this down for me?"  She is the only person EVER to refer to me as tall.  Of course, this is after she fell off a ladder at the age of 80 and we yelled at her something good.  I think it was really her doctor giving her a good scolding that really stopped the climbing.

Although Mimere has been fading rapidly over the last several years, she still lived by herself.  She got her hair done every Friday and scheduled her dentist appointments routinely every 4 months.  She adored my children.  They (along with her other great-grandchildren) have brought her joy and a reason to live over the last 7 years.

I feel proud that I can be with her now.  That I've been able to help her out in the last 8 years.  She is one of the primary reasons that Pat and I moved back to this area.  I never dreamed that I would live on the same street as Mimere.  It's going to be hard to drive by her senior building and know that she's not in the apartment.  I can't believe she's not going to see Jake and Sophia dressed up for Halloween.  I talked to her about their costumes just on Friday.  Every year, even though I told her I was making the costumes, she would forget, and then be shocked to see the costumes and realize that I made them.

She loved the fact that we named Sophia after her (Sophia Dorothy).  It made her cry.  It is one of the few times I have seen her cry.  Such the polar opposite from my mom and I, who cannot not cry to save our lives.  We're a mess. 

I wish I could have Mimere forever.  But I know that her time is here.  We've all said our good-byes.  She just needs to drift off.  We know Heaven awaits her.  We have faith.  More importantly, she has faith.

So here I sit, waiting.

Yesterday, while she could still speak, she told her pastor, "It's been a wonderful life."

She told me, "I've had a good life."  And then she kept repeating, "I love everybody."

We know Mimere.  And we love you too.

The entire family (minus one great-grandchild) at my house in July.  Yesterday, Mimere said, "That was a good day.  It was so good to see everyone."

Friday, October 21, 2011

This post is brought to you today by the letter B...

Brand new

Baby Boy Biel


Best team ever (2004 Red Sox, in case you were wondering)

Baby Butt



Binkie and Blankie
Big Boy Bed

Baby sister




Boy scouts

 Birthday Boy!


Being Brave

Buds with Buzzes


Bald is Beautiful!

A special thank you to all of our friends and family who supported Jake in fundraising for St. Baldrick's.  With your support, Jake personally was able to raise $700.  His school was able to raise over $10,000 to help fund research for kids with cancer. 

Our personal thanks to:

The Vagianelis Family
David Kopach
Patti and Matt Kopach
Daryll Cook
The Nicchi Family
Trish Peterson
Linda Lee Herriman
Shirley Biel
Barbara Frenzel
Chris & Julie Kopach
Stephen Kopach
Irene & Edward Morris
The O'Neill Family
Patty Black
Michele Fobare & James Kopach
Mary Rose & Philip Kopach
Annette Mielewski
The LaVigne Family
The Giambertone Family
Mrs. Sheri O'Connor

Monday, October 17, 2011

Really Keeping It in Perspective

So, my 7 year-old asked me what could be considered an odd question the other day. 

"Mom, can I shave my head?"

While to some, this might be out in left field, it made perfect sense to me, as his school (Forts Ferry) is hosting a St. Baldrick's fundraiser on 10/21/11. 

Jake's school is big on teaching kindness and compassion.  They participate in Rachel's Challenge, which promotes kindness and compassion.  Rachel's Challenge was formed in memory of one of the Columbine victims.  Forts Ferry is continuing on with that message by hosting a fundraiser to benefit kids with cancer. 

I'm not sure he really understands what this is all about.  So, we talked about it.  Part of Jake's Aspergers is that he has trouble with empathy.  It is hard for him to picture what it must be like to have cancer.  He didn't understand what having a shaved head had to do with cancer.  But he also has sensitivities to somethings that would not bother most kids.  Like hair clippers.  Getting his hair cut is really difficult for him.  He does an excellent job, and tries his hardest to sit up and sit still.  But you can tell it is hard for him.  When I told him that he would get the clippers on his whole head, he told me he changed his mind.  Then I explained to him what cancer treatment is like.  With lots of needles and ports and surgeries.  How chemotherapy makes you sick and it makes your hair fall out.  How radiation can sometimes burn.  And that he would have to sit still for about 10 minutes, while a child with cancer, best case, has to under go all this for at least a year. 

He thought for a minute and said, "Ok, I'll get my head shaved."

So, we are letting our 7 year-old get his head shaved (yes, school pictures were already done).

As everyone knows, money is tight and fund raising is everywhere these days.  We don't often ask our extended family to participate.  For instance, we are currently selling popcorn for boy scouts as well as wrapping paper/frozen foods for school.  We are asking you, this time, if at all possible, to help out.  The link for Jake's page is below.  As of this writing, this blog has had 280 hits.  I realize that there are some repeat visitors, but if everyone who reads this gave $10, we'd be on our way. 

Now, I'm probably gonna cry when they shave Jake's head.  His hair is pretty short as it is, so it won't be a huge change, but nonetheless, he's gonna be bald.  But he's alive.  And healthy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Keeping it in perspective

Sometimes, I get so involved in what I'm doing that I lose perspective of the world around me. Usually, this directly corresponds with fatigue on my part. The more exhausted I am, the easier it is for me to lose perspective.  And then other bad things happen.  Like I yell at my kids.  I make snap judgments.  I feel a strong urge to hit my husband over the head with a frying pan. 

What causes me to feel this way?  Here's the current rundown:

  • I work 3 days a week at my "regular" job.  This week, at this job, I visited 11 schools.  Considering I had Monday off, and only worked 2 days, that's kind of impressive.  Next week, in my 3 days, I will visit 15 locations.  16, if you include going in on a day off to attend a meeting.  This, in and of itself is exhausting.  Then add the fact that I'm constantly moving and demonstrating exercises.  My job seems to be sapping all the life out of me this year.
  • Plus I have a second job, which I work one to two Saturday mornings each month.  Last Saturday was my day.  Not terribly strenuous, but still, it sucks having to go to work on a Saturday morning.
  • We are putting in a stone entrance way to the front of the house.  My day off on Monday was spent helping move pavers.  They weren't too heavy, but the repetition made for some very sore muscles the next few days. 
  • The inside of my house is a disaster area.  It is in desperate need of picking up and a thorough cleaning.  Not exaggerating, it would probably take me 5-6 hours to pick up enough to be able to clean thoroughly.  The dishes are never ending, and the clutter appears to multiply while we sleep.  When I do manage to get something cleaned up, my children attack that area with a determination like no other.
  • Despite the fact that my children are 4 and 7, I still have to get up at least one time each night with one or the other.  They have the uncanny ability to sense the moment that I finally fall asleep, and after sleeping for approximately 60 seconds, someone begins calling for me.  Last night, they were both up.  Pat can snore right through it.
  • In the middle of the night, when the house is finally quiet, my mind suddenly becomes active, an I wake up with a mind whirling with all the things I need to do.  Being awake from 4-5 am does not usually help my state of mind the next day. 
  • My son is having some trouble attending to task, and I'm worried we're heading down the road to ADD.
  • Every night, in addition to the never ending fight to read, practice math facts and do homework, one kid or another has something to do.  We are constantly running here and there.  I can barely get food on the table for the family.
So, after finally snapping, yelling at my mother, venting to my friend, eating a canoli and finally blowing up at my kids, I was finally able to see my lack of perspective.

I have two great kids. 

I have a great house.  It may not be clean for the next 14 years, but its a home to my kids.  When I admitted to a fellow pre-school mom today that we don't have playdates because of the state of the house, she just said, "Oh, come on.  My house looks like a bomb went off and then a tornado struck."  Somehow, it made me feel better.  (Thanks Michelle)

I have a job that, although tremendously stressful and hectic, is fulfilling.  I know that I am making a difference.

If my son does have ADD, we'll deal with it.  I have a good resource network.  (Thanks Margaret)  We're on top of this early and can address things early.  Maybe he's just a seven year-old, and they're not meant to focus.

I have a best friend who listens to me whining and offers words of encouragement.  And has come up with a legal defense if I should hit Pat over the head with a frying pan.  And she not only doesn't judge me eating a canoli, she goes with me to get a creme puff.  (Thanks Michele)

I know that I am so lucky.  Several of the other blogs I follow are by parents with children with health issues.  One of those children has spent a week in the ICU, with a good possibility of not leaving.  Her parents are remarkable.  (Keep getting better Moriah!)

Another blog I follow is by my cousin and his wife and their 8 month old who was born with a significant heart defect. She was in open heart surgery by the time she was 18 hours old.  She is such a little trooper, as are her parents too (Way to go Tommy and Meghan!).

As previously mentioned, I was inspired to blog by my college roommate who has a 2 1/2 year old and 6 month old triplets.  'Nuff said.  (Still in awe Jess).

So, I'm gonna quit whining and bitching.  I'm gonna try and be a little more glass half full.  I'm gonna take the time to enjoy my kids and husband and house and friends. 

And thank God for what a good life I have.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall in New York

The start of fall is my favorite time of the year.  I love when you can feel the crisp-ness to the air.  I love when I can wear a sweater or two.  I love a bright and sunny fall day with blue skies and red leaves.  And to many people, fall in NY is equated with apple picking.  And apple pies.

Now, I don't like apple pies.  I know, un-American.  But I do love getting all the fresh apples.  And, of course, the cider donuts.  But, at this time of year, I feel obligated to make pie.  But I don't really enjoy it (probably since I don't eat it).  My dad does like to make pies, and likes to have the "help" of his grandchildren.
Jake, age 2 1/2, making pies with Grandpa.  Fall 2006

Working in schools, I usually get to go on a field trip to some of the local orchards/farms.  It's great, because I can get my apples and donuts, and the crowds aren't too bad, unlike when you try to visit on a weekend.
Indian Ladder Farms, September 2007

Sophia's first farm trip, 1 month old.  September 2007.

My kids love going to places like this.  They love the apples and the donuts, as well as the cider.  They love the animals.  I love taking them to farms so that they can appreciate where things come from, especially our food.  We occasionally buy hay from a neighborhood farm.  Jake and Sophia ALWAYS want to go to the farm.  Sophia will tell anyone and everyone about the time she went to the farm and a rooster "kicked her in the butt."  True story.  I wasn't there to see it--it was another Grandpa adventure. 
Jake at Bowman's Farm.  First field trip for 3 year-old preschool. September 2007.

Sophia at Liberty Ridge, 3 year old preschool.  October 2010.

I'm a city girl at heart.  But I like to visit farms, too.  Right now, my knowledge of all things agricultural has been enhanced about 100 fold by playing farmville.  Seriously--I can now identify all sorts of plants and animals that I had never even heard of before.  Today, after school, my dad took us to Bowman's in Rexford.  We went to long way, and got to check out Vischer's Ferry (the landing where the ferry used to dock to shuttle people over the Mohawk, essentially connecting Albany to Northwest of the Mohawk). 

Jake and Sophia check out a calf.

Grandpa and the kids.

Sophia is 'this' tall.  About 40 inches.

Jake is measuring in at about 49-50 inches these days (he wouldn't stand up straight, though).

Sophia and one of the draft horses.  The thing was massive.  Its head was almost as tall as Sophia.

Jake with another draft horse. As previously noted, Jake is a little over 4 feet tall.
I love the fact that my kids want to go to farms. That they can appreciate the land and the animals, and where our food comes from. Maybe it's because they have farming in their blood (Pat's family, not mine). Whatever the reason, I love that they love it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

14 Years...

14 years is a long time.  A lot can happen in 14 years.  For example, it the past 14 years, I have:
  • Gotten 3 college degrees
  • Lost 2 grandparents
  • Moved about 6 times
  • Lived in 5 states
  • Worked 11 jobs
  • Bought 4 cars
  • Met and married my husband
  • Had 2 wonderful kids
And this says nothing about how the world has changed. 9/11, cell phones, the internet.  14 years ago, blogs weren't even invented, let alone Facebook.  My friends and I mocked people who walked around talking on their phones.  Now I feel as if my phone is another appendage.  14 years ago, the Red Sox were still waiting to reverse the curse.

But today is significant for another reason.  14 years ago today, my college roommate and I got a kitten.  This kitten was sired by a good friend's cat.  Our friend had been tragically killed in a car accident earlier that summer.  We took the kitten as a link to him.  His favorite bar (and ours at the time) was Harper's Ferry on Brighton Ave.  We had been there with him the night he died.  To us, it made sense to name the kitten Harper.

As a kitten, Harper had a penchant for attacking unsuspecting socks and gloves, and the ever troublesome pencil.  Once, while I was breaking up with a no-good boyfriend, Harper jumped up from behind the couch and bitch-slapped him in the face, completely unprovoked.  If only she could have advised me sooner....

I often talked to my grandmother about Harper.  My grandmother was an avid cat lover and had had many cats over the years.  I visited my grandmother frequently the year I got Harper.  It was easy to talk about the cat, and not talk about the fact that she was dying of lung cancer. 

So, for 14 years, Harper has been my companion.  She moved between various apartments in Boston, and down to Maryland with another friend.  I ended up taking her for good after my last clinical in 1999.  Since then, Harper has lived at my parents, before moving to Ohio with me, and then back to NY. 

Harper riding in the car.  She hates it, but did better if she could sit in our lap.

For 14 years, Harper has rushed to the door when she hears someone coming in, like a dog.  She has greeted me on every entrance to the house, every day.  She watches out the window.  When she sees birds, squirrels and chipmunks, she chirps at them.  We have started letting her out to chase the chipmunks.  She needs some joy in her old age.

Looking out the window at birds in the spirea bushes outside our Columbus house.

When I sing, especially in the shower, Harper cries loudly.  I like to think she's trying to sing along with me, but I'm pretty sure she's just yelling at me to stop.

When Pat and I first started dating, Harper was jealous.  She used to wedge herself in between us.  That was until she grew to love Pat.  Then, she just sat in his lap.  I have been trying for years to get Pat to admit that he loves he, but he simply replies, "I put up with her."  As he's caressing her and snuggling her, and kissing her. 

This looks like love to me!

When I was pregnant with Jake, I worried about what Harper's reaction would be.  When we brought him home, Harper was right there, checking him out.  She meowed whenever he cried, until she learned what it was.  Then she learned that the kids have great toys, like boxes and ribbons and dangling things.  She likes them, and allows them to abuse her in all sorts of ways.

Checking out the baby, just after he arrived home.
She is good as gold with the kids.  They probably deserve to get scratched a lot more.  But I think she just likes their toys.
Harper got to try out Sophia's big girl bed before Sophia even did!

Notice the paper behind her: A Way to Spend the Afternoon

Harper has become a mouser in the last few years.  She keeps up her skills by chasing socks. Still.  Usually at about 4 am.

Never met a box she didn't like.

Harper probably has failing kidneys.  She has lost a lot of weight in the past year.  She had always been obese, but now she's 5 ounces lighter than a straw hat.  She has trouble jumping, probably due to arthritis.  But she eats and drinks, and produces the required output.  She plays and sleeps and keeps us company.  I don't know that she'll make it to 15. 
Christmas 2010.  You can see how much smaller she is.

Harper has been a good companion.  She is my last link to my life before marriage and children.  She is one of the last threads to my grandmother.  She is the first pet for my children.  Her name will be a security question for them when they are older.  And whether or not Pat will ever admit it, she is loved by us all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is this my fault?

As anyone who knows me knows, I'm a control freak.  Type A.  A micromanager.  I come from a long line of females like it.  And my daughter is one too.  I plan and analyze and then end up trying to do everything myself because I need it done a specific manner and a specific time frame.  I add a lot of stress to myself.  And I drive my husband insane with it.

So, I'm this person who thinks they can control everything.  I talk to inanimate objects.  When something is not cooperating (think stacking items that are sliding all over the place), I tell the objects to, "Be nice."  I talk to other drivers, warning them not to pull out in front of me.  As if they could hear me.  And yes, I talk to the tv.  I feel that I can control the outcome of, say a sporting event, by yelling at the TV.

Now, I know, realistically, that this is insane.  However, I do know that I have some actual proof that I can control the universe.  And the weight of that responsibility is weighing heavily right now. 

Let's rewind to Fall 2003.  I was pregnant with my first child.  My husband and I watched the playoffs. I stayed up late every night, as it seemed EVERY game went about 20 innings as my Red Sox tried their hardest against the Yankees.  I promised the powers that be one late, late night that I would name my son "Trot Nixon Biel" if they won the series.  Yeah, we all know how that turned out.

Jake was born in 2004.  The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.

The bat was mine from when I went to Fenway as a kid.

Ok, could be a coincidence.

Sophia was born in 2007.  The Red Sox won again in 2007.

Apparently, my giving birth that calendar year enables the Red Sox to win the World Series.  We had talked earlier in the year about whether or not to try for #3.  We voted no.  So is it my fault the Red Sox have imploded?  Do I have to keep having babies for the Red Sox to win?

  If I do have control over this, I'm not sure I want it.  That's a lot of responsibilty for one person.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Great Wall of Biel

When we renovated our house over four years ago, we knew the yard would need some work.  Our house faces south and is oriented on a hill that runs east to west.  As such, the driveway is lower than the house.  The previous owner used wood to terrace the hill part.  There were 2 main problems with that for us: 1. The wood was rotting out and home for carpenter ants. 2. We are HORRIBLE at maintaining flower beds, and they looked disasterous.  As such, Pat came up with a wonderful idea to build a retaining wall and a new set of stairs.  Ok, fine by me.

Pat rents an excavator and digs out.  October 31, 2008

Once Pat dug the whole, winter set in quickly, and we had a large hole in our yard until the following summer.  Once the heat of July hit, Pat got to work building the wall.  Each block weighs about 70 pounds.  I tried to lift one once, and nearly wet my pants.  Pat lifted every single block into place.
Working on the stairs, with the assistance of Sophia. July 2009.

Nice curve, carefully measured out.
So, Pat got the wall built.  And it was impressive, and he was tired.  And so the wall sat.  It was finished.  Sort of.  We still needed to get caps for the pillars, and the walkway needed to be put in. 

And so the wall has sat, since 2009. 

This spring, we started the process of trying to buy caps.  The first place we went to visit would not return our calls.  The caps we ordered from another place were too small.  No one had the right color and size.  The right color and size were in Utah, with no way to get them here.  We ordered lights to match the lights on the house. In April.  They arrived last week.  So Pat, with "encouragement" from my dad, decided to make the caps.  Pat built a form. 

The form is up on a pallet on the back of my dad's pick-up in our garage, which is the only level spot in our driveway.

He bought concrete.  We borrowed a concrete mixer.  I hand blended color.

This is what it looked like, about 1/2 way through.
The concrete needs to cure for about 24 hours.   Then it has to be flipped onto the post. We will drive it right up to the post, which is why we poured it right on the back of the truck.  We think this cap will weigh about 600 pounds.   If this works, we get to do it again for the second cap. 

Keep your fingers crossed...