Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Milestone

Today I will write the very last check ever for C for an after school-care/day care-like program.

Oh, he'll still be covered by a summer sitter and attend summer programs and the like, but in terms of formal care programs, this is it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Preschool Picture Day

Today is picture day at S's school. It is also a day that Daddy gets the kids up, dressed, and out the door. I left plenty of instructions. Still, I suggested to S's teachers that S might need a little hair assistance this morning.

I'm really interested to see the resulting photos in a few weeks.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Feeling Lost

About a year or so ago, I wrote (as part of a longer post) about how our church was to be welcoming a new rector in the near term.

In the first weeks of the new rector’s leadership, I thought he was nice enough though a little stiff and felt confident that we’d all get more comfortable over time. That hasn’t happened.

Now, I’m not in church as much as I used to be because I teach Sunday School a couple of weekends a month. I’ve noticed that when I am not scheduled to teach, my desire to go to church at all is just not there – and times I am in church I am not particularly engaged in the sermon and the rite seems to plod along. I realized during the period of unemployment this winter I felt particularly disconnected from church, like I couldn’t seek support there. I thought it was just me, and certainly, a good portion of it is. But.

Yesterday I was in church, not teaching – and I walked out after the sermon.

The rector – R – related a vignette that took place in the Charleston, SC airport on Thursday at 4:45AM. Yes, morning. R was trying to come back early from the annual youth group Missions trip to the South Carolina low country (where the kids help build houses), and witnessed a mother (travelling without another parent) lose her cool with one of her four children. Apparently she yelled, and harshly.

I don’t doubt that it was a strong, disturbing scene. I don’t know the words that came out of the mother’s mouth, I don’t know the entire circumstance. Nor did R.

Yet R proceeded to spend seven minutes on this vignette discussing how the child was going to grow up to be angry and a danger, and what a bad parent this mother was, and how there is so much bad parenting in the world and let me give you more examples, and kids just need love, not more rules, and aren’t our kids great, they go build houses for disadvantaged families in South Carolina, and let me reiterate about how much bad parenting I see.

Then R went on to something else but I couldn’t even hear him at that point. I waited until the sermon was officially over, and left.

There was so much judgment in his words. I was horrified. That mother may well have been a mother for whom verbal abuse is par for the course, but she also might have been having a really, really bad morning. There was absolutely no compassion for the entirety of the situation – which, silly me, I thought we as Christians could bring to the scene. God knows I’ve had times that I have lost my cool with the kids. I’m not proud of those moments. I work hard not to, but they do happen. Here was a moment when he could have tied a difficult situation in everyday life back to Christianity: how can we use what we learn in church to help head off such angry moments in every day life? How can we be witnesses to love in these moments? How can we return to God when we lose our way? And, if the mother was an abusive mother, how can we know to do the right thing and help break the cycle?

As I thought about this sermon that so disturbed me, I also thought about the disconnect I feel between myself and church leadership – namely, R. I figured out that R has never really let down his guard. He talks AT us in his sermons, not WITH us. He is putting on a show, like it’s a marketing presentation, not really communicating. Even his “personal asides” feel scripted and showy. For the most part, I think those of us who go to church are looking for connections between Sunday and everyday, between religion and the secular world. We aren’t looking to be pitched like it’s a sales presentation.

I know I am not alone. As I waited for C and S to be done with classes, a couple people asked me why I left the service and when I told them, they nodded knowingly and verbally agreed with me.

R’s background looked great in part because of his business background (before he went to seminary). Two years ago, we were faced at a booming church needing some business leadership to go along with the religious and pastoral leadership. But he needs to leave the business approach in the business offices, and take things back to the heart, without pretense, in the sanctuary.

The church is not quite as full on Sundays as it was a year ago (and most of the moms with younger children are teaching Sunday School, so don’t hear his sermons such as this….the sermon seemed to play well to the older generation, though – those much further removed from the reality of parenting). Pledges for the current fiscal year are down, and we who are still there have been asked to make additional donations to cover expenses.

There are parts of the church I do still enjoy. The Director of Christian Education is a blast, C is having lots of fun in choir, and the other families are wonderful. But is it enough if I don’t want to actually go to church?

I don’t know how to begin to say anything – or whether I should. I certainly don’t feel comfortable approaching R directly. The son of one of the vestry members is on C’s baseball team this season. Maybe I can get a conversation going with her on the bleachers some evening.

In the meantime, I’m feeling pretty bleh! about this church that I’ve so loved, and that’s making me feel sad and lost.

Last Push

April break for the kids is over. Today we begin the last push of the school year.

It's also the beginning of little league baseball season, fundraising season, and totally antsy for the beach season.

At baseball practice the other night, one of the coaches (who was C's coach two years ago), noted that C is "significantly improved" over that time. "More coordinated" was one of the terms he used. He asked if C had been practicing. "Not really," I said. Despite intentions to do so, there never seems to be the time, I thought to myself. A little while later, I wondered: five years later, could we still be dealing with recovery issues from his illness? Some bit that is finally, naturally coming back together? I'll have to think on that.

My broken toe is still sore and swollen. I haven't had it looked at or anything, knowing the advice will be, "Stay off of it!" With my life?Unrealistic. I realized that of the injuries and health issues I've had in the last few years, they've mostly been in April. I read somewhere, sometime, about the tendency for injury when one is otherwise stressed. April is a challenging time of year for me. I'm glad it's almost over.

Life continues apace, and lately it feels like we're hanging on for the ride...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Feelin' Sassy

This evening on the phone, I admitted to my mother that I am, in fact a Democrat:

Mom: I've been down at Republican headquarters volunteering in advance of the state convention. Doing everything I can to get McCain elected.

Me: And I'm doing everything I can to cancel out your vote.

Mom: (silence)

Mom: Oh dear.

That only took 22 years.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would tell you about the efforts in my town to increase recycling and reduce waste.

We have in our town a “transfer station.” It’s the town dump. As we have no trash pickup in town, the transfer station doubles as a weekend social hub since everyone has to go. I kid you not. One purchases a sticker on a yearly basis to gain entrance to the transfer station and throw out bagged trash in the big compactor thingy in the middle, throw out recycling in the appropriate bins, and for the privilege of perusing the “mall,” an area in which to swap usable good (we’ve brought home a working rototiller and a kiln – yes, a kiln – from the mall, dropped off a couch and kitchen good and many, many books). There’s a bottle area to dump returnable bottles and various charitable organizations in town get turns at taking the returns for refunds to benefit their group. It’s an interesting place.

Until recently, although recycling was mandatory, plenty of people just bagged up the recyclable materials and put them in the compactor. The recycling area was confusing, and everything had to be sorted just right else the self-proclaimed “dump Nazis” would lay into you like you would not believe.

There definitely was a system to the transfer station, and one learned it fast or else.

But with the rising costs of hauling away our compacted garbage and issues with the recycling system, our town selectmen, er, selectpersons began investigating other methods. Over the course of a year of research and proposals and visiting other towns, they came up with a two pronged approach: signing a contract with a new recycling organization that would allow single-stream recycling and use of pay-as-you-throw bags for all garbage (with a lowered yearly sticker fee). According to the studies, this would could costs at the transfer station significantly, increase recycling and increase awareness of individual impact on our world. And it was working in towns around us.

No longer would we need to sort our recycling. Just bring it in in one large bin. And the new contract allows recycling of a greater variety of items. We used to have to check plastics numbers, but no more.

The yearly sticker fee dropped by 70%. We would buy blue garbage bags at the local market in one of two sizes ($1 per kitchen bag size, $1.50 per 33-gallon bag size), put all our garbage in there and that was it.

The town also put together some promotions with local garden centers for great composters at lower prices to encourage composting of food and yard waste.

With a fair bit of fuss, the plan was voted into action in December for implementation on April 1.

As is the case in many small towns, there are plenty of people here who don’t like change. Not. At. All. Given some of the uproar and nastiness, you’d think we were asking people to sacrifice their pets or their first born on the altar of Al Gore!

The letters to the editor of the town paper and conversation in the shops were vitriolic to say the least. People declared it a new higher tax, a tax on large families, unresearched, unproven, promoting liberal lies, even un-American. We should be able to use and toss whatever we damn well please, thankyouverymuch. It is our right to consume! Global warming? What global warming? Residents called for the selectmen, er, selectpersons to be recalled

The one point by the dissenters that I’ll even validate here is the tax on large families issue. Yes, it will cost large families more to throw out their garbage. You didn’t think it should cost you the same as the retirees and single grandmothers in town, did you? Should the retired couple be subsidizing your trash habit? You are the ones who chose to have nine kids. It's going to cost more in every way. It just is! So yes, if you look at it from the large family perspective, it can seem “unfair” – or entirely fair and appropriate if you look at it from the little old lady perspective.

Of course, things couldn’t go smoothly to start. In the first couple of weeks, there was revealed to be a manufacturing issue with the first round of bags. They tended to tear if overfilled. The incensed residents declared we should dump the trash from the torn bags on the lawns of the selectmen, er, selectpersons. And in case you didn’t know, here are their addresses.

At any rate, three weeks into pay-as-you-throw, and the furor has mostly died down. There was an interesting race to clean out garages in March before the new stickers and bags went into effect, but for the most part residents are figuring out this whole reduce, reuse, recycle thing – as well as the compost thing. Things seem to be (GASP!) working.

As for my family of five, we were already pretty good at recycling and had been doing some composting, but now we are even better. It is going to cost us less this year to deal with our garbage than it did last year with the full-priced transfer station sticker. It looks like we fill one (ONE!) 33-gallon bag with garbage every two weeks. Everything else is recycled or composted.

Some towns, like mine, seem to need to be dragged into good environment-conscious practices kicking and screaming. Thank goodness there are involved people insistent and persistent enough to do it. I’m sure this isn’t the last such battle in town, but it’s a start. And one has to start somewhere.

Monday, April 21, 2008

We're Getting the Band Back Together

S has been in the same center/preschool since she was five months old. To say that she has known some of the kids in her school her whole life isn't much of an exaggeration. Almost as long as she has been aware of the the world around her, she has also been aware of T and D and J and a few others. A few other kids have joined their little gaggle of giggling along the way. It's a functional and happy group.

Twice the directors of the center have split up this little peer group rather arbitrarily. It's been an annoyance to the kids, an annoyance to the parents, and an annoyance to the teachers. When split up, the kids continue to ask for each other. They gravitate toward each other in the halls and on the playground - just to be separated when going back to classrooms. In which they ask for one another. Repeat this every day of the school year.

For the last year (starting in the fall) in preschool, the directors have conceded to the kids and the teachers and the parents and put them all together again in one class. We are so, so excited.

For some weird reason, whenever I think about this, I want to remake this tshirt with all the kids faces (sunglasses, hats, the whole bit), with it captioned, "We're getting the band back together."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Interesting Side Effect

There was an article in the paper recently that the increase in fuel prices has spurred increased use of public transportation, and no, you commuters are not hallucinating, the traffic on our notoriously busy roads really is a bit lighter.

More use of public transportation – a very good thing.

But there are still those of us who have to drive for various reasons, such as timing of commutes, relative locations of home and workplace, and so on. I am one of those people.

I have noticed that with the lighter traffic my commutes are shorter and I am able to drive more consistent speeds for longer stretches on the commute. This, in turn, means higher gas mileage for my car.

Bonus all around!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Perusing the Police Log

The police log is printed in our local (weekly) newspaper. It is almost always the source of some amusement.

Among other things, this week someone reported a "suspicious scarecrow" on the driveway.

Every week there are at least four "suspicious vehicle" reports. Most read like this:

"Friday, April 4, 4:04PM: Caller reports suspicious vehicle on Elm Street. Officer reported all okay."

I wonder how many of those really end with the officer speaking to the caller at the front door saying, "Mrs. Smith, your neighbor has purchased a new car."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Growing Up is Hard to Do

Yesterday afternoon was S's very first birthday party. She's been out of her mind with excitement for days.

Yesterday morning, however, S crawled up in my lap and said she didn't want a party, she didn't want to turn four. The excitement, it seems, was a little too much.

I held her for a few minutes then wondered if she thought "turning" four meant she was going to be turning into something different. I told her that four was just a number and she was still going to be my little girl, and she could still climb into my lap for snuggles. Not much would change.

She was much relieved to hear that, and a few minutes later, was ready for her party day again.

It was a busy and exciting and sugar-filled day - and she loved every minute of it.

There will be a little bit of a repeat today as today is her actual birthday, so the family cake and gifts come tonight (and she's going to another boy's birthday party this afternoon). The grin on her face is priceless.

Happy birthday, my sweet S. I love you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


After C was sick five years ago, we worried about his immune system in general. At some point in the subsequent months, his pediatrician drew some blood to look at the level of specific antibodies in his system. The antibody levels were low, so Dr. H recommended he get a pneumococcal vaccine (PPS-23) to be sure he was fully covered. The assumption (hope) was that C would need this one to supplement and boost his immune system and he'd be fine and maintain his immunity as the effectiveness of the vaccine wore off over five years.

At C's annual physical last week, I talked with his doctor about checking to be sure the antibody levels were at an appropriate level. Dr. H said, "Presumable his spleen is working as it should and the titers are just a formality." He took some blood and we waited.

On Thursday we learned that he antibodies levels we were looking for were very low again and C needed another shot. After talking with C about it on Thursday night (at which point he claimed "fine, no problem"), I took him in yesterday.

As well as C does around issues relating to his illness, he still has issues. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, his mood and his attitude changed for the worse. He was snapping at his siblings and generally really unpleasant.

I stopped him and said I understood why he was anxious, but snapping at his brother and sister was not okay. He mostly stopped. I reassured him that this was a necessary vaccine, it wasn't arbitrary and if he didn't really need it, we wouldn't be here.

In the exam room, as I talked with Dr. H about C's spleen (he swears it's something we shouldn't get too worked up about), C became a bit goofy.

When it came time for the actual shot, he tried to maintain that silly, somewhat tough, I can handle this demeanor but one little thing gave him away: he held my hand.

After it was all over and we were out of the offices, C was back to business as usual.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Today of all days

I just flipped to the health section on and saw this article. ("My Daughters are Fine, but I'll Never Be the Same," by Harriet Brown. Also, here.)

That it appears now, today, feels a little eerie and creepy to me. Today is C's "bad day" and tomorrow is mine.

But it's also comforting, knowing I am not alone in these feelings. I wonder if I should print out several copies and keep them handy for the people who harp, "What have you got to worry about now? Just be thankful!" Well, yeah, I am, but there's more to all of it than that. Much more.

I think the correct term is “bleary”

For some reason, I was anxious overnight about not waking to the alarm this morning and therefore did not sleep well. At all.

I get up at 5:30AM on Tuesday mornings to try to get out the door and to work early so I can leave at the right time to pick up the kids. At 4:41AM, I roused, looked at the clock and panicked. In my un-eyeglassed state, I could only make out the “:41” part and thought I was already late.

I jumped out of bed, went into the bathroom and turned on the light and the fan, then started the water in the shower. Only then did I think to myself, “Wait, what did the clock say?” I went back into the bedroom to look and sure enough, almost an hour left to sleep. I turned off the water, the fan and the light and crawled back into bed. I dozed but didn’t really sleep. Too anxious about the alarm.

There must be a Starbucks around here somewhere.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Distressing News

We have this friend who is a former colleague of my husband's from when we lived in the south. Really lovely, smart woman. We have not been super close over the years but maintained an easy relationship. My husband often sees her at conferences, they email on professional issues frequently and I look forward to spending time with her, too, when the opportunity arises.

We were so happy for N when she met her husband J, and later had a baby boy D. The last time we saw her was at our house in June. She was giving a talk in town and stayed with us. We had a lovely dinner on the porch after she kindly endured one of C's 5th grade band concerts. She was also very newly pregnant after several losses. We talked about (among other things) how being a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene probably means more than just carrying a gene - and how life takes you unexpected places. She told us about converting to Judaism upon marrying her husband and how it was quite a surprise to her Catholic family, but that she continues to feel absolutely right about the decision. It was hard to end our conversations and go to sleep.

After N left the next day, we didn't hear from her. Summer passed and there wasn't much urgency, but into September there were no return emails and we worried. Did she lose the baby? Was her mother's health failing? We didn't want to push in, however.

The conference at which my husband usually saw her came and went. She wasn't there. Nothing at the holidays.

Last night my husband finally heard from her. The good news is that the pregnancy did hold and she gave birth to a healthy baby girl in January. The harder news is that D, her little boy, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in September. He continues to go through chemotherapy. He is three.

Her email, my husband said, sounded as positive as it could. He replied and tried to offer words of the resiliency of children (the possibility of a cure is pretty good), and support as a parent who has been through a child's illness. We can't know exactly how she feels, of course, but we do know something of being a parent with a very, very sick child.

We were subdued last night (obviously) after hearing from N. The time of year plays into it for us, too.

Please, keep N and her son D, husband J, and daughter J in your thoughts.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dang, This is a Small Town

Every six months or so I am reminded in some way of how small a town this is. Not only that, but I am often amazed by the number of people that grew up here who come back. The small town nature and the return of people to the town makes for an interesting combination. I've been learning over the years (and sometimes the hard way) that I must be VERY VERY careful about what I say in town, and that to many, I will always be in interloper.

That neighbor who drives me nuts and whose children do interesting things? She grew up here. Her mother and father still live in the house in which she grew up, and her brother recently moved back.

Yesterday I took S to a birthday party. All the kids in her class were invited. In talking to the other mothers, one of whom is the mother of one of S's close pals (also an S), I learned that other S's mom and J's mom both grew up in town. In fact, other S's mom knows the neighbor from grade school and their mothers are friends. J's mom knows the neighbor's brother from high school. These returnees, these "true" locals, they are everywhere. Everywhere.

What does this mean? My neighbor's crap is going to be my own private agony. I cannot breathe a word of it around town - because I am the newcomer (well, there are a couple of people I can say something to, but we are still very careful). My neighbor, however, because she's a native, and her roots go deeper, has much wider swath that she can cut, if she so chooses. It's like a game, but one for which you are never quite let in on all the rules.

Granted, discretion is warranted no matter where you live and with whom, but it would be nice not to have worry about the town grapevine quite so much.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Isn't it a Pretty Color?

It's called "An Affair in Red Square" by OPI. Just love that color.

The bruising? Oh, yeah.

It's broken.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


With C's birthday today and the anniversary of his illness imminent, I am thinking about him and his health a great deal, about the time he was sick, and about how strong and healthy he is now. That may or may not explain why we suddenly see other people associated with that time more often at this time of the year. They are like loving spirits surrounding us, continuing to carry us through.

Some of it is by design, like when we drop the mobile off at the PICU each April. Some of it isn't.

I've run into Ms. A, his 1st grade teacher, three times in the last week. I hadn't seen her since about October.

Someone called out of the blue last week and asked about C, how he is.

This afternoon, Dr. G called my husband. Dr. G is on the admissions board at the medical school and came across an applicant who made reference to my husband, so he called to ask more questions about the applicant. After the discussion about the applicant, Dr. G asked about C, and ended the conversation by saying, "You know, if any of your kids decide to go into medicine, especially C, I'll walk them right in the door."

And April is only getting started.

An hour and a half later: Again, Ms. A! This time C was with me. Funny that he'll let Ms. A give him a birthday hug, but won't let me do the same.

No Foolin'

Happy Birthday, C.