Monday, September 29, 2008

Whistling for Ian

I was reading by the time I was four years old. I remember the exact moment. I was sitting in the back of our maroon, Dodge dart, little legs sticking to the black pleather in the hot Kentucky sun. I looked at the road signs. Suddenly, the shapes morphed into something I understood. I began to read everything my eyes could see. I consumed everything written, hiding my new secret and enjoying my miracle for awhile.

I knew even then, how important a miracle reading and learning were. I began to play 'teacher' to my little brother. He liked it better then being my living baby doll (at some point the photos will surface of my sweetie sibling looking lovely in a pink nightgown). Eventually his teacher sent a note home asking my mom for me to stop teaching him how to read, as I was doing it wrong.

I learned how to do it 'write' and became an English teacher. I recently found pictures of my students and lived again the life of 'Mama Ro', the crazy, involved teacher who adopted as much as she instructed.

As my own son is now in his first year of school, this miracle of reading and learning has taken on a new meaning. It has also taken on a new weightiness and pressure.

My son doesn't know all his letters. He can only write his name with regular clarity. He struggled so much with a reading assessment that no assessing could be done. It is impossible to know whether he can or can't learn to read and write. He is already a child on the edge of being left behind.

However, he has a young, energetic teacher with the patience of Job. He attends a school where the classes are small enough and teachers are committed enough that he will get individualized literacy support. He has parents who will do anything to see him succeed and hold his hand if he doesn't.

My first reaction, as with most things, was to attack it with every resource we have. I am in the process of setting up an incentive/learning center and bought some letter puzzles, magnets and fun games. I am ready baby.

My mother/sister/friend and home schooling goddess, Beth, sent home with Ian a magical book.

She also gave me a long list of ideas around the book. She gently, and in her usual grace filled way, reminded me of the miracle of reading and learning. Tonight the miracle began to come true.

I wish I could blog that he magically could remember his sight words, or that he recognized more letters. He didn't. He will. Just not tonight.

He was swinging his legs in his feetie jammies, noshing on a blueberry muffin top. Recovering from a chest cold, I was glad to see him eat and drink. We reviewed sight words. He knew 3 of the 9. It was time to read.

I read with no agenda other than to enjoy the story of this wonderful little boy and his dog. I put in every bit of expression and mother goofiness I could muster. I read for no other reason than to share this moment with my son.

Peter is trying to learn how to whistle for his wiener dog Willie. He tries and tries and tries again. Finally, he tries one last time and is able to whistle! At the high point, I whistled in jubilation along with Peter and my darling son. In the story, Willie the Wiener comes running to Peter. In our kitchen, Frankie the Wonder-Wiener-Dog, came running too! We laughed so hard I thought my baby would fall out of his chair. Frank just snuffled under Ian's chair looking for a muffin crumb.

"Read it again! That was g-weat!" (Rrrr's are a challenge.) So I did, reminded once again what miracles are reading and my little whistling sweetie.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Green Light

It's official. I am, as some not so nice conservative commentators would say, a Greenie Weanie.

I was in the grocery store, for a few of those blessedly unencumbered moments a mother enjoys. I was looking for dixie cups for my son to rinse out the 'tooth-taste' after brushing. I could only find the plastic version. I put the package back as I knew it would take a bazillion years for the cup to fully not be impacting the earth.

Please understand one thing. I think humans were created to care for, steward and use all the earth has to offer. This includes meat. I love a good steak as much as the next gal. This includes drilling wherever we damn well please to get the oil we are sitting on-instead of paying countries that harbor and train terrorists. In essence we are paying people to plot to kill us and end our way of life because we can't dig in our own backyards. It's much like sitting on the lid of a water well and burning to death because we don't want to take the lid off because, well, it might hurt something. Sorry, political tangent. Short of everyone riding bikes and learning to rollerblade, things ain't realistically gonna change in the near (or far) future. And if any fellow Greenies tell me I should trade in my SUV for a smaller, hybrid, they can come and tote my family (and the ten tons o' gear) around for a week and then get back to me.

All that political tirade aside, I do believe in our responsibility to steward the earth as we have been given it. If we can do something cleaner, cheaper and better, we should. It's why I am so excited to be working for an environmental solutions company ( They manufacture electric vehicles fast enough to be used by law enforcement. These aren't those little scooters that only go above 5 mph when going downhill. These are real cars, with real power.

I am excited to work for a pharmacy services company that installed geothermal heat without help from the government. They did it because it made business sense. It cut their heating/fueling costs dramatically. It was expensive and risky. It was a brilliant move.

I have the luxury of thinking sustainable and environmentally friendly because I am not fighting each day to simply make it through the day. It is through the business lens I look into the Green Movement. If we can do things in a way that uses less energy, creates less waste and is healthier for us I say, "Hooray!".

As the mother of a five year old, I am often privileged to tote him to the drive in for a kid friendly movie. Mostly, I try to read a book and not fall out the back of the truck. Sometimes my husband and I cuddle and sip our favorite beer, drifting off for a quick nap while our little is enthralled with the latest kid-merchandising opportunity. However, for the Pixar movie WALL-E, I couldn't look away.

It was a morality tale for grown ups. It posited that we could consume ourselves out of our very humanity. Can we? Probably not. However, it does ask the simple question of, "How much is too much?" Who gets to determine that shifts with every administration and political action committee. Some think we should return to the days of walking, living in caves and not shaving. Others buy their way out with manufactured morality by purchasing "carbon" credits from some underdeveloped hell hole which would use the same petroleum based vehicle if they weren't so busy killing each other.

I just say I can do a little. I did my part today. I put back the plastic sippy cups.

What will you do?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Catching Up

I live in the perpetual land of never caught up. I am never caught up.

The laundry is never caught up. It seems just when I fold the last pair of tidey whities emblazoned with a spiderman or transformer, I glance in the corner and there is a dingy sock.

The house cleaning is never caught up. There seems to be a conspiracy between the dust bunnies, the dirt and the toys. All three are never really eradicated from any room. And let's not even begin to approach the reality of living with three potty trained men.

The shopping is never caught up. Children grow. Mine especially fast. The seasons are changing and the checkbook isn't. Yet, shoes need to be bought, warm and cozy clothes secured and I can't find any dress clothes in all the moving madness.

The work is never caught up. I am a pseudo-independent contractor working from home. That is code for never really stopping work. I now have a blackberry and know what it is to be truly plugged in-it means never to be truly unplugged.

The writing is never caught up. I set a goal to blog at least three times a week. In the grip of recovery I wrote more than that. Now, when I almost completely own all my time, I write way less than that.

Time with my husband is never caught up. Ever.

I live my life never caught up.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mother In Law Camp: Part Deux-Scottish Revelations

Please refer to the link for Part One of Mother In Law camp.

Disclaimer 2: I still love my mother-in-law.

My husband and his family are of Scottish descent. They are proud of their Scotch heritage and often rely on it for supporting their tempers, fierce love of family and imbibing of 'adult beverages'.

I, on the other hand, am Italian, German and tad Welsh. Ain't a whiff of scotch about me, except for that one time on a business trip. I support their pride (who doesn't love plaid?) I supported them right through a flood.

Ligonier PA hosts the Scottish Highland Games every year on the weekend after Labor Day. It's usually blazingly hot. Picture big men in skirts throwing telephone poles while people cheer from their lawn chairs raising frosty glasses o' Guinness.

We couldn't wait to go. We couldn't wait to show off our firey haired babies and join the madness.

True to their Scottish lineage, when the weather showed for rain, MIL and my husband were game to go. "The kids will love it!" they exclaimed. "It will be magical." I bought it, hook-line and sinker.

When it started to sprinkle, I was okay. It could have been the Guinness, who knows. When the deluge opened up, I wasn't so okay. It was so wet, I could wring out my shorts. My five year old took refuge under an awning. The baby? He was in his glory, holding his little feeties into the rain, giggling the whole time. His face crinkled when dripped on, mouth wide to drink the deluge.

We stayed as long as we could. Our exit card came when the five year old began to turn blue and screamed, "I hate the Scots! I wanna GO HOME NOW!" This while we were standing under some trees in a vain attempt at shelter. Our shelter mates? Scots. We weren't so popular.

What made it magical and bearable and not another painful MIL event was her. She had a smile as wide as her face at the children. She couldn't wait for them to see, hear, taste and smell everything. She showed the oldest the Scottish breeds of dogs and explained what colors were in our family tartan. She told me I was 'close enough' to the clan by just having Welsh in my blood (no offense to any true Scotswomen).

Her joy was infectious. We began planning next year's event already. She complimented my wardrobe (a first) and even complimented my mothering to some friends she met unexpectedly.

I watched as the cold rain soaked her through. I knew she must be shivering. Since her transplant six years ago she has always had a challenge keeping her body temperature under control. Yet she still kept the umbrella over the baby and ignored the river flowing down her back. As we slogged through the mud and muck and rain back to the cars, she stopped to make me listen to the plaintive sounds of the bag pipers getting ready to compete. "Isn't it magical?" she whispered.

And it was. Because of her. That's the dichotomy of mothering. Challenges and magic all at the same time.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lighting Up Labor Day

Our Labor Day picnic was on fire! Literally.

(Many, many, many apologies, first born children, clothing gift cards and near eternal servitude to our friend Lisa for the tale of tragedy I am about to share!)

As usual, I had a brain burp on Friday and decided to have a small picnic on Monday to celebrate the end of the summer season. Of course, today it's hot and humid, so it is all relative.

I called up a few people I like to frolic with (read: people who are way cool and whose children play nice with mine). We all planned a low key festa of burgers, dogs and various salads. We've all been healthfully influenced by our friends who have worked miracles with their health and waistlines. No longer are our buffets full o' fried, fatty goodness--veggies and fruit are front and center.

We ate. We played. We had a full contact game of Boccie ball. It was fab-yoo-lous.

The fire in the pit was gorgeous. It burned down to warm and cozy embers. We roasted some corn and chatted about God, the election, kids, cheese, whatever and nothing. It was glorious.

I love to entertain. I call it channeling my inner Martha. This is the first time I have truly had a space to bring people to and feed them in. With my type A uber-host father, having people over is an exhausting and awesome time.

We laughed. We ate some more. Then, well, the fireworks started. Literally.

My husband has a not so secret pyromaniac streak. It's not enough to warrant treatment, however, it does warrant the hose and some neosporin. (To protect us from potential prosecution I will now switch tenses in my blogging. It's illegal to have fireworks in our state. It wasn't us. It was the...ummm....Shecky family....yeah, that's the ticket.)

So anyway, the Sheckies, (anyone else giggle at that? i just did.) sat down to enjoy a few harmless, bright and stinky fireworks. We, I mean they, were scattered in comfy lawn chairs around the fire pit and under the gazebo. Children were in laps. Claps were offered for bigger, louder booms and oohs-aahs-and ohs were emitted too. Mr. Shecky was in his glory.

Then the unthinkable happened. One fell over, shooting firey rockets not into the beautiful night sky but right into the gazebo where we sat.

Picture a scene from "Saving Private Ryan" where everything is in slow motion and people are ducking for cover. The missiles weren't shells, but rather brightly colored greens, blues and pinks aiming directly for our heads! I ended up in the wood pile. Friends ended up under tables and in the bricks. Lisa ended up on fire.

When the sulfur laden smoke cleared Lisa was stopping, dropping and rolling. Her shirt suffered a direct hit. My dad, I mean Mr. Shecky Sr., quickly lept into action putting out the fire. Mrs. Shecky grabbed the nearest fire device I could find, a handful of ice from the cooler, and threw it on her.

You really can tell a true friendship by the way you collectively handle near tragedy. We were thankful and breathed a sigh of relief the only real casualty was Lisa's shirt. We laughed the nervous laugh of a group of people thankful not to be sitting in the ER.

Later, when Lisa stopped shaking and I stopped wanting to kill Mr. Shecky, we did what we always do in good times and bad. We prayed. Mr. Shecky prayed for Lisa, as he should.

And, as sometimes happen, in good times and bad, we ended up laughing. We laughed from our spirits, our hearts, our mouths and smiles. We laughed in thankfulness at no casualties. We laughed at having a friendship now forged in real fire. We laughed because we could.

I'm planning a BYOBS picnic when the weather is cooler. (B: bring, Y: your, O: own, B: bowl, and S: spoon) will have huge pots of wedding and other soups, warm bread and spiced wine. It will NOT have fireworks!