Posts tagged ‘life stories’

June 2, 2014

Robot Mom

The only photo of me taken on our vacation – taken on our first night in the condo by daddy with his tablet. (Because I’m usually taking all the photos.)

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on May 21, 2014.

In the late 90s, I worked for US Airways at the Athens Ben Epps Airport. Truly, it was the best job I ever had for two reasons – the varied work suited me, and most importantly, I worked with some awesome people. It’s the only time I witnessed true teamwork despite working in offices where employers touted the term “teamwork” frequently.

Now that I look back, I realize that the work suited me because I’m not cut out for sitting in an office in front of a computer for eight hours. At the airport I got to work with people, work inside and outside, do physical work, and work on the computer. There were slow times between flights, and there were intense times while checking people in for the flight, loading their bags on the plane, running the security check point, and marshaling the plane in and out of its parking spot. Many times there were only two of us working, and since it was a small airport most of the passengers thought they could arrive five minutes before takeoff. (That wasn’t helpful.)

Once a passenger asked me, “Do you fly the airplane too?”

“Only in emergencies.” I joked.

My co-workers and I worked well together because everyone did exactly what was needed of them in any given moment. None of us favored one task over another, so we jumped in wherever we were needed. The only exception to this was our manager, and though that may sound like a criticism, I actually liked her. She was a nice woman, but when she was there she disrupted the flow of our work for various reasons. Later I learned the only reason she took the job as manager was because there was no else to do it, and she gladly gave it up when someone else wanted it.

The reason I’m telling this story is because I have a vivid memory of one day when a flight was cancelled, and twenty passengers stood before us in a panic because they were going to miss their connection in Charlotte, NC. One of my co-workers and I worked so smoothly and quickly helping each passenger in line that we deflated any quick-tempered passengers.

What I remember about that moment is my manager standing near us and exclaiming, “Look at them! They’re like robots!” It was always hard for her to understand how we could remain so unflustered during those stressful moments.

Now all these years later that memory keeps resurfacing because once again, I find myself in a situation that requires varied tasks. I get to work with awesome people, get outside, do physical work, and part of the day, I’m on my computer. But it’s even better because I get to do creative work and continually learn new things too.

The bad part is that I never get a day off, and I’m so busy going from task to another that I rarely get a chance to rest. I never get to cross everything off my to do list either. Indeed, this is the life of a mother, especially a homeschooling mom, and a freelance writer, and it’s not lost on me that sometimes I must look like a robot. That is, focused, hurried and unsmiling.

I’m trying to remember to smile more. I want my outward appearance to match how I’m feeling inside. I want my kids to know that I love my job, and I love them. Even when I’m tired, there’s nowhere I’d rather be but right here.

I have so many good memories from my time working at the small airport. I could write a book about all the characters I met there, and all the laughter and smiles. Did I appreciate it while I worked there? I think so, but I know there were days that it was just a job.

My current job is anything but “just a job,” so I hope I can remember that each moment is a memory in the making.

April 20, 2014

The Non-Garden

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on April 16, 2014.

Like everyone, I am so happy that spring is here. And Easter is coming here. And summer is coming. And summer camps. And, oh my. Time has a way of just slipping by, especially when the breezes carry the sweet smells of flowering trees, phlox and tulips.

Usually this is the time of year I like to get my boys outside into our garden. We would clean it up, rake the winter leaves away and find some seeds to plant. I’m not saying that won’t happen, but right now as I write this, I’m too tired to think about gardening.

But I do love gardening, and if I had the time, I would putter in my yard and make it look pretty. Right now it doesn’t look very pretty at all, but at least spring sends up a few blooms that give it promise.

Today my seven-year-old spent half the day making a big robot out of cardboard, red construction paper, paper towel tubes, coat hangers, some little wheels for feet, and a big cooking pot for its head. (We had to discuss which pot could be used for its head. The original request was for something I use almost every day in the kitchen. He settled for a pot I rarely use.)

He said he got the idea from Curious George. (Don’t you love Curious George?) When he gets busy working on a project like this, I’m only too happy to postpone our lessons. I think he gets a lot more out of these projects than he would get out of anything I would do with him.

Meanwhile, my four-year-old was busy drawing on a piece of paper. His drawings are piling up as well as all the blocks and toys scattered over the living room floor. It may look like a mess, but no, many times he is carefully placing his toys and blocks in a pattern or making a “city.” Once he piled a bunch of things together and called it his “artwork.” That cracked me up.

Most days I wrangle my kids together to do our lessons. My seven-year-old reads from early readers now, and recently we started working in the Life of Fred books for our math lessons again. We watch Salsa on GPB.org to learn a little Spanish, and we have started reading Story of the World for history lessons. (My husband, a history professor, was impressed with this elementary age book that aims to tell world history as an engaging story for kids.)

In the late afternoons between dinner and bath time, my seven-year-old usually asks me to read to him from the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We are on the third book, and he loves them. He loves to hear how Pa Ingalls built the log house, and once after we read that, he dug out our Lincoln Logs and made one of his own.

Both my sons are taking classes at the nature center, and my seven-year-old started a pottery class too. He loves it. Although he still says he wants to be a scientist when he grows up, I keep seeing this love of building and constructing things – out of any material, from cardboard to clay. I wonder where that will lead us?

Now the weather is good enough to meet our friends at the park. We particularly love Harris Shoals Park in Watkinsville, and wow the boys slept well after hiking with their friends along the trail and playing by the shoals all afternoon!

Besides this, I’ve been working more, which I’m grateful for, but that means the garden may have to wait this year. In some ways, I’m tending another kind of garden, and it’s giving me just as much pleasure as digging my hands into the earth and smelling those spring blossoms.

Happy Easter!

March 13, 2014

Winter Siestas

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on March 12, 2014.

I love Georgia winters because the weather here always offers us a few “siestas” or breaks in the cold weather. This winter has been especially cold, but that hasn’t stopped us from getting a few days of spring-like weather sprinkled here and there. I have even seen some trees blooming.

The blooms I’ve found always give me mixed emotions because I know a freeze may come and mess up the blooming cycle, but every spring Georgia seems to have plenty of beautiful blooms anyway. I can’t wait until the warm weather is here to stay, but I’m glad we’ve been taking advantage of the warm days in winter.

The boys are finally old enough to enjoy longer hikes, at least when the terrain isn’t too rugged. We usually go to Fort Yargo, and recently we were happy to discover that there is a trail that goes all the way around the lake – years ago when my husband and I hiked there while we were dating, the trail didn’t go all the way around.

We haven’t yet hiked the whole trail in one visit, but we’ve done parts of it, and my seven-year-old really wanted to see the dam, so we walked all the way from the parking lot near the beach to the dam and back. Ft. Yargo is a beautiful place, and if you live here in Barrow County, you’ll want to visit as often as you can.

Last week we went to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, which has several miles of trails too. My boys love to hike on the trail that goes along the Middle Oconee River the best. Sometimes the river is high, but occasionally it’ll be low enough where they can venture down to a large sandbar and play by the water.

As soon as they saw the sandbar last week, there was no keeping them on the trail. My husband and I found a log to sit on, and we watched our boys build a “beaver dam” with driftwood and mud. Two little girls and their mother came out onto the sandy area, and we were delighted to watch our four-year-old chatter away with one of the girls who joined my boys in their pursuit to build a strong dam.

We were too far away to hear what our youngest son was saying, but later my seven-year-old told me that he was telling the girl what his favorite foods were, among other things. I guess for a four-year-old, there are only a few topics of conversation!

As for the cold days, they are perfect days to get more work done. More library books are read, math games are played, and of course, my son continues to work at this Legos and cardboard building projects. I recently introduced him to the game Minecraft, which is an app you can download on the iPad. It’s a popular game with kids, and it’s like building with blocks on the screen. He is hooked on that now too.

But I can’t wait until spring is here to stay. Park play dates, more hiking, and our annual attempts at gardening – while the gardening usually isn’t very fruitful, the attempts make me happy.

These hints of spring are full of promises. The birds are inspecting the birdhouses on our porch, and I’ve heard the frogs begin to sing. The budding plants and occasional warm days are just what I need to get me through the weeks of cold.  May the true spring come quickly this year, and may it fill us all with a fresh, cheerful spirit!

July 9, 2013

Life’s Unexpected Twists and Turns

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on July 3, 2013.

We weren’t planning to make any trips this summer, but life threw us a curveball recently when my mother-in-law got into a very bad car accident. Thankfully she’s okay, but my in-laws needed a little help and a lot of cheering up, so one morning we decided we needed to come to Chicago, and the next morning we left for our all-day journey to the Windy City.

I’m still waiting for the day when my husband will decide we’re too old to make the trip in one day, but I realize that day will probably never come. We had such a short time to get ready that we decided to take not only our dogs, which we always take, but our cat too. Yes, you can call us crazy. Besides not wanting to inconvenience anyone, she’s a sociable cat who hates being left alone. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as she sleeps contentedly beside me in Chicago.

Our boys travel like angels and only whine if they get too hungry, so we do our best to avoid that. We let them watch DVDs on the drive up, but one movie and a few shows doesn’t pass a 15 hour drive quickly enough. We were all exhausted and ready for bed when we arrived.

Luckily my husband works from home, so he was able to bring his office with him. He’s been busy dealing with work matters as well as helping his parents with insurance matters, purchasing a car and doctor’s appointments.

My poor father-in-law was given another blow tonight when his water boiler broke and spilled water all over the basement floor. As the darkness covers the sky, two neighbors and my husband are helping him try to solve that problem. Sometimes when it rains it pours.

Though my boys may be too little to fully understand what’s happening – for them it’s all adventure – I’m glad they’re here as we act out some of the family values we’re trying to teach them. It’s our job to help each other when we’re able to. Families need to stick together.

It’s something I value very much about my Polish in-laws and extended family. When push comes to shove, they all stick together. It doesn’t mean everyone always gets along perfectly, but no one ever shuts anyone else out.

While we can’t exactly call this a vacation, we decided we would have some fun too. Since we live in rural Barrow County, it’s a big treat for me to be here awhile with the grocery stores, fruit market and other amenities within a five-minute drive.

In fact, I can’t get used to it, and while shopping with my mother-in-law, I rushed her through it because we forgot a cooler and “oh the ice cream is going to melt on the way home!” When I remembered that we were five minutes from home, I understood the strange look I got for that!

There are two parks within walking distance to my in-laws house, and I’m not sure who enjoys walking to them more – me or my boys. There’s also a wonderful library a few blocks away, and it’s almost enough to make me want to move to the city. But don’t worry — it won’t take long for me to miss our large yard, garden and sparse traffic.

On Saturday we visited the Chicago Botanical Garden, and we spent a long time in their butterfly habitat, which seemed like a perfect conclusion to our experience of raising butterflies. We also had a mission to find the carnivorous plants, which is my six-year-old’s latest interest and quickly becoming his next project. He told me he wants to grow them at home, so stay tuned for our adventures with that!

We will go to at least one museum while we’re here and visit with family, but we’ll be happy to return to Georgia, our friends, summer camps, and lazy summer afternoons where we’ll be too far away from anything to bother with the shopping or other errands.

***

FYI We are home now!

June 13, 2013

Hospital Adventure

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on June 19, 2013.

Last week the six-year-old came down with another stomach virus – his third this year.  When my poor child suffers as much as he does with these wicked viruses, I wish it would be me instead of him. For some reason, he’s the only one in the family who gets it in the stomach. My youngest and I suffered only from the common cold.

Our doctor is the best. He lets us call him, and he’ll talk us through it, or call in a prescription, which we did on the first day, but this time the medicine for nausea didn’t help, so the next morning before any of us were prepared to start the day, we went down to his office, and my husband carried in the six-year-old.

We were spared our usual long wait. When you have a child who can’t walk and can barely talk, it’s an urgent case, and from the doctor’s office, we were sent to the hospital’s outpatient services.

Our three-year-old was with us all day too, and he was the best child in the world. I’m not quite sure what he was thinking, but he knew his brother was very sick. Later, when I told him his brother was getting better, he bounced up and down, and exclaimed, “Yay!”

At the hospital, I felt surprisingly calm. I knew we were in the right place, and I knew the nurses and staff would do everything they needed to do to help my son. The IV would keep him hydrated, which was so difficult and stressful to do at home since he couldn’t keep anything down.

Our doctor requested an X-rayed of his stomach and did some blood work to rule out anything more serious since my son keeps catching these nasty bugs. I felt extremely grateful that they found nothing, and once again I’m humbled to think that there are so many parents who aren’t so lucky.

We didn’t expect to have to spend the night, but our son wasn’t well enough when our doctor came to visit him after his office hours.  So my son and I camped out at the hospital together. Luckily he was feeling a little better by the early evening, and from then on, we called it our “hospital adventure.” The bonus was getting to watch “The Lion King” alone with mommy.

My praise and gratitude go to all the health professionals that we encountered during our brief stay.  It’s not the first time I’ve slept at a hospital, and every experience has yielded the same thoughts: hospital staff, especially the nurses, are the most incredible people. They are truly the caretakers of the world.

One of our daytime nurses, Matt, was kind, funny and talkative, and though my six-year-old could barely respond to him when Matt put the IV in his arm, I know his humor helped put my son at ease. It put me at ease!

Our night nurse was the best. Elizabeth was warm and just like a mother. She didn’t even seem tired at the end of her shift.  When she wheeled the cot into the room for me to sleep in, I tried to help her make it up, but she shooed me away. “That’s my job! You rest, Mama.” She politely scolded me.

Even in the hallways, my son was greeted with smiles and sympathy, and I know perhaps the staff is coached to be friendly, but that doesn’t mean they all will be. People who go into the health profession do so because they are suited for the work. (I know I couldn’t do it.)

In the morning when Elizabeth came to tell me they were doing a shift change, and she would be going home, I told her she had been a wonderful nurse. She wagged her finger at me.

“No, no…I’m paid to do that,” she said.  Of course, I know that. But while I believe you can pay someone to do a good job, you can’t pay them to exude warmth and a genuine concern for other people. Some people are just more talented and kind.

Luckily for me, every time I’ve left a hospital, I’ve left with my health and the health of those around me. I know life may not always yield this blessing, but for now I will breath in a sigh of relief and say, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Wishing you all good health.

March 15, 2013

No Spring Break

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on March 13, 2013.

Last week was my husband’s spring break, so we had planned some family excursions. Unfortunately, the six-year-old came down with a nasty stomach virus, and as I write this, the three-year-old is sniffling and sneezing.

My six-year-old was camped out on the sofa for four days, and more than one day I felt my blood pressure quicken while listening to him moan and try to overcome the nausea. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, and I got so tense watching him lose weight that now I have a muscle spasm in my shoulder.

My heart goes out to parents who are dealing with chronic illnesses in their children.  I can hardly stand to think about stuff like that.

My husband dealt with it in his own way. Not able to concentrate on his work, he busied himself with a different kind of work: cleaning out his upstairs closet. Don’t ask me how it is a man gets to claim a whole other closet as his own while my stuff is crammed into half of our small bedroom closet, but such is the case in our house. (Oh, he likes to tell me I have the bigger dresser, but I remind him that he claimed that extra closet as soon as we moved in. I only got the dresser a couple of years ago.)

He also installed new, more efficient light bulbs throughout our house, and now my bathroom is like walking into the afterlife. We have the sun in our hallway too. Still, I appreciate how he thinks about things like light bulbs and how he uses a busted spring break to clean out his closet.

My three-year-old took advantage of his older brother’s illness by getting me all to himself.  He had me doing big floor puzzles, throwing balls, and coloring big posters of the Dinosaur Train characters.  One morning we colored, painted with watercolors and then made a space shuttle out of clay all in the span of about two hours.

When the six-year-old is sick, I start to realize how helpful Older Brother is regarding spending time and playing with the three-year-old! I promise to never take him for granted again.

I didn’t mind spending all that time with the three-year-old though. It reminded me of the one-on-one time I had with the six-year-old for three years before he was born.  Though I wouldn’t trade either child for anything, there is something sweet about focusing your attention on one child. Noticing his every move. Hearing his every word. Just you and him.

I used to spend so much time outside with my firstborn, exploring our yard and taking hundreds of photos with my first digital point and shoot. Flowers, twigs, bugs and sunshine were our toys. Now I try to get both boys outside playing together while I steal time to myself. If I join them, they compete for my attention, and the sunshine isn’t so relaxing anymore.

When they’re both healthy, there’s always a little friction, but I’m lucky that they get along so well most of the time. They are good companions for one another.

The forecast is predicting warm weather this week. I’m very hopeful that we’ll be healthy again once this goes to print, and we’ll be playing in the yard or taking some kind of excursion.  Spring is peeping its head around the corner, and I’m running to it, arms flailing, ready to embrace it.

How is your spring break going? 

November 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on November 28, 2012.

This week my mother is turning 72 years old, though if you ask her, she might say she’s 75.  That’s right…her way of thinking is that if she tells you she’s older, you’ll say, “Wow! You look great for your age!”

Now that I’m a mother, I can look back on my childhood and appreciate the sacrifices and unconditional love my mother has given me.  My mom loved dancing, and she taught young children how to dance before she married my father.  She has never stopped loving dance, and she taught Dancercise when I was young, but mostly, she stayed home and took care of her home and children.

I don’t know if she ever had aspirations outside of family life, but I do know she doesn’t regret her choices.

If you had asked me when I was twenty if I wanted to follow in my mom’s footsteps and be a stay-at-home mom, I would have said, “No way.”  There were a lot of things I wanted to do, but having children was not high on my priority list.

Now, I credit my mothering ability partly to the example she gave me. Perhaps I can also credit my storytelling abilities to my mother.  My grandmother told me how as a child my mother would tell her friends outrageous stories.  For example, she told one of her friends that a man used to drive through Athens with a big truck, and he would pick up little children and take them to the river and drown them! My grandmother got a call from the friend’s parent for that one.

I can’t remember my mother telling me outrageous stories, but I can remember her tickling me until I fell off the bed and singing with her as she played the piano.  I remember her playing games with me to pass the time on long road trips, and I remember the prom dresses she spent too much money on to make me happy.

Growing up I had friends whose mothers were less than exemplary, and I could see that while sometimes I butted heads with my mom – probably because we’re alike – I was lucky to have her.  She has always been my biggest fan.  I’m certain that she’s the only person in the world who has read every word I’ve ever published.

I don’t have the words to express my deepest gratitude for that.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my mother it’s that I need to pay attention to my children. I need to want to know what they are willing to share.

My children will learn soon enough that the rest of the world cares very little about their needs, desires and the minor details of their lives. Though I hope they’ll find a community who supports and uplifts them, I plan to be the one who will always be there, no matter what.

I am lucky that I have a lot of people in my life who love me, support me, and would help me if I needed it, but my mother has been the one person whom I always knew I could turn to immediately, if I needed it.  There were times in my life when I lacked a community – I traveled and lived outside the country twice – but I always knew I could reach my mom at any moment.  That’s a feeling of security that every person deserves to have.

Happy birthday, Mom.  I love you, and I’m grateful everyday that you are my mom.

November 10, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Parenthood

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on November 7, 2012.

October was a rough month for us.  The boys got sick for the second time this fall.  All those wonderful festivals and things to do at this time of year got cancelled for us.  That didn’t surprise me. Now I’m kind of used to missing fun things because something comes up – that’s part of having kids that you learn about real quick.

What did surprise me was my reaction to my six-year-old’s stomach virus.  I thought I was passed the point of being an overreacting parent.  You know, when you have your first born infant, you’re overprotective and extra vigilant about everything.  When baby gets sick, your doctor is more concerned about calming you down than about the baby’s illness.

By the second child, you’re an old pro.  You don’t have to call the doctor anymore.  Colds and flus are dealt with at home.  When healthy, you overlook the fact that your son is crawling on an unswept floor, and you just sigh heavily and say a prayer when you see him lick the shopping cart’s handle.

But I have not been through a stomach virus such as this, and I was that much more hyper because a few months before this same son became dehydrated when he had a cold – he refuses to eat or drink if he has a sore throat.  So I was watching him like a hawk and pushing sips of water the best I could.

It was horrible, and my already skinny kid lost a lot of weight. It happened over the weekend too – kids always get sick on the weekends and at night when doctor’s offices are closed. So I pestered our doctor twice on the phone, and he assured me the virus was going around and my son would improve in time. It wasn’t fast enough for me, however, and if it hadn’t been for a more cool-headed husband, I probably would have taken him to the hospital.

This autumn the three-year-old is also taking us on round 2 of the terrible threes. (It’s not the terrible twos! It’s the terrible threes!) To top it off, he’s taken up screaming too. I’m not talking about temper tantrums – he screams when he’s happy, and he screams when he’s upset. It’s nerve-wracking to say the least.

His lack of volume control is also unfortunate for my husband who recently started working at home full-time. Sound travels through this house as well as it travels across water, so there really isn’t a quiet corner anyone can escape to. This whole season has been about adapting and adjusting to the ups and downs of parenthood.

It hasn’t been all bad. My six-year-old has impressed me with his ability to concentrate during our morning homeschool lessons despite distractions from his little brother. Two months ago I wasn’t sure we would make much progress on his math or reading skills any time soon, but suddenly my son is counting by 2s and 5s and reading is starting to click too.

Being sick also gave us the excuse to slow down and enjoy the autumn weather in our yard and do some painting and creating.  My six-year-old gets ideas from the children’s programs he watches, and it’s fun to watch him take on an art project and do it by himself.

We also enjoyed a fun, healthy Halloween week, which made up for missing out on some things earlier in the month.  We had a small Halloween party with friends, attended Bear Hollow Zoo’s “Boo at the Zoo” event, and went trick or treating in our neighborhood on Halloween night.  Oh, and I turned yet another year older, but let’s not dwell on that.

Whenever I experience the lows of parenthood, I remind myself that “this too shall pass.” Hopefully the upcoming holiday season will be healthy and stress free – for you and for me.

How has your Autumn been?

August 31, 2012

Losing a Canine Companion

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 29, 2012.

Last week my family had to say good-bye to an old friend.  Millie was one of two dogs my husband owned when I met him.  She was a pretty, medium-sized mut with long brown and black hair.  She was my husband’s first dog, and she helped him through a rough time in his life, so I know losing her was especially sad for him.

My husband loves to tell the story of how he got Millie at the Barrow County Animal Shelter.  She was one of a litter of puppies that someone had thrown over a fence.  (I will refrain from expletives here.)  Fortunately, Millie did not have injuries from that, though some of her siblings did.

When my husband picked her out, she was taken to the vet for a thorough examination, and it was discovered that she had parvo.  Parvo, or canine parvovirus, is a highly contagious virus that affects dogs.  It can be especially fatal for puppies that are not protected by maternal antibodies or a vaccine. Though the outcome looked grim for Millie, my husband told the vet he would like to wait overnight to see what might happen.

My husband’s gamble paid off because Millie quickly recovered while all the dogs at the shelter had to be put down to stop the spread of the disease. My husband took her home, and she became his little buddy.  It wasn’t long after that, however, that my husband thought Millie needed a friend while he was at work all day. So he adopted Samantha or “Sam” as we called her.

Sam was slightly bigger and a whole lot smarter than Millie, so Millie had to assert her authority in order to stay the number one dog.  Poor Sam.  She had to endure a lot from Millie, but she remained subservient and a loyal friend.  Despite Millie’s occasional growls, they became good companions until Sam died shortly after my first son was born.

Millie and Sam both had to endure the addition of my cat and me, though I think my cat would claim to have the raw end of the deal in this new house that we all moved to almost nine years ago so that we could call ourselves a family.

It was a sad day when Sam died, and Millie took it hard.  Sam was the adventurous one who took her on pilgrimages around our backyard everyday.  After Sam died, Millie just sat on the ground and did nothing.  So we didn’t waste much time in getting Banjo, our young dog who is now alone and missing Millie.  He kept Millie on her toes, and I believe his energy and companionship helped her have a good quality of life these past few years.

Unfortunately, life has its cycles, both good and bad.  Millie got old and sick.  We knew she was ailing, so her passing was not completely unexpected, though it did happen on our three-year-old’s birthday, which we weren’t expecting.  Fortunately, he was too young to fully grasp what was happening.

My six-year-old, also, was a little too young and lacked the memories of Millie that we have, so for him, the whole ordeal was one that elicited more questions than sorrow. Fortunately for my husband, he also wanted to help him with the process of burying her in our backyard.

My husband was proud of the six-year-old.  For the first time he helped his dad with a difficult project, and he stuck with the work until it was finished. The red clay was hard and dry, but they dug it together.  We were all together as we covered her up and said good-bye.

Marty Tousley, a bereavement counselor, writes, “With their constant presence, availability and devotion, pets are our best source of unconditional love, becoming for many of us the ideal child, parent, mate or friend. They listen without judgment or reproach, and never give advice. They accept us exactly as we are, regardless of how we look or feel or behave. They forgive us readily and never hold grudges against us. No matter how much change we must endure in our unpredictable lives, our pets are always there for us.”

We certainly feel a hole in our lives now that Millie is not here.  She was a sweet, loving dog, and we’ll miss her.

August 8, 2012

A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Polish Style

Note: This has surely been the busiest summer of my life, and the column below will let you know one of the reasons why.  We are finally home from this unexpected two-week vacation in Chicago, and though we had a lot of fun, we’re ready to get back into the swing of things.  I have a very long to-do list, and that includes ideas for this upcoming first year of “official” homeschooling as well as ideas for this blog.  I may not get to it all in a timely manner, but such is life with young children.  I hope you’ll stick with me as I muddle through my to-do list!  And thank you to all my new and faithful long-time subscribers!  You give me encouragement to keep this chronicle going.

The following column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 1, 2012.

This week my family and I are in Chicago visiting my husband’s family and celebrating my in-laws 50th anniversary.  They had a big celebration and invited over 100 family and friends – some people my husband had not seen in 20 or 30 years.

For me it’s always a treat to visit Chicago and get a glimpse into my husband’s childhood, which was very different from mine.  I grew up in a small family with no relations who lived nearby.  I didn’t live in a big city either.  I mostly remember the suburbs of Denver and later Las Vegas, and while it’s a city, the culture and atmosphere is different from Chicago or more specifically, the Polish neighborhoods where my husband grew up.

I’ve heard many stories about the huge weddings, funerals and other celebrations that my in-laws frequent, and for the first time, I got to attend one.  It was an all day affair, though I’m grateful they had it on a Sunday, which meant it lasted until only nine o’clock instead of two in the morning!

We attended church with them in the early afternoon when they renewed their vows.  I was more than a little anxious about my two-year-old sitting silently for one hour during the service.  He was cranky and sour all morning, but when we got to church I realized all he had wanted was me, so as long as he could sit in mama’s lap, he was happy.  Wiggly, but quiet.  Whew!

I knew the five-year-old would be good.  He’s old enough to understand me when I tell him he has to be quiet and good for a while.  Later he told me it was boring, and I could understand that, especially since the service had been in Polish. I’m proud of him for enduring it.

The five-year-old also told me the party was fun, and indeed, it was fun.  Polish people know how to party!  The party lasted six hours, and there was a live band, more delicious food than you can imagine, an open bar, dance floor, and huge dessert table.  Everyone greeted each other with kisses and hugs, and my five-year-old ran around with his cousins like he had known them his whole life.

Whenever someone started to tap their silverware on their dishes, the whole room filled up with clanging and hollering.  This was a signal that the bride and groom are supposed to kiss each other.  My in-laws pretended not to notice while they poured more coffee or took a second helping of food.  Then they would satisfy everyone with a peck on the lips.  My husband told me if they were a young couple newly married, this ritual would happen much more frequently through the night.

My mother-in-law was a wonderful host, and she visited every table to make sure everyone was happy with the food.  I was also introduced to endless, smiling faces who kissed me on the cheeks and told me they knew my husband when he was my sons’ ages.  I could barely hear them because the band played so loud!

My in-laws started the dancing as is typical at a wedding, and my husband followed by dancing with his sister.  Soon a large group of people circled them and held hands, making the festivities escalate.  Everyone in the room danced at some point, and whenever the band played, the dance floor was full.

When the band took a break, the adults drifted back to their tables, and the children took over the dance floor, running in circles or making up games of tag.  Other times they played under the tables draped with tablecloths.  My five-year-old had a great time.

Though my two-year-old can hold his own with the big boys, at one point he retreated to the table where the after dinner dishes had not yet been cleared.  He began to do what he does best – create and build.  He stacked coffee cups and silverware and mixed drinks.  He made a mess, but not as bad as you might think.  Someone came up to me and said he could get a job as a wine server – his motor skills are that good!

It’s not often this stay-at-home mama has a reason to get dressed up and go to a party.  I had a wonderful time, and I especially enjoyed sitting back and taking it all in – a different lifestyle and culture than I’m used to, but for that reason, it’s a joy to be part of it.

I’m glad my in-laws did it, and I think everyone who makes it to their 50th should have a celebration – a kind of summing up of the life they have lived and with the family and friends they have collected over the years.  It’s a wonderful reward for a life well lived.

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