Monday, June 28, 2010

Caitlin at Nine

Dear Caitlin,

Today you turned nine. NINE. Nine. As in your very last year in the single digits.

The night before, we collected your cousins
Cousins, three.

so that you could have a sleepover in the tent that Daddy set up in the backyard. Everyone was so wiped out that you guys didn't stay up late at all! We were amazed. The next day, you got to hang out with Max, Axl and the twins while Daddy and I worked on getting ready for the party. You did your part to get ready, too.


Having your favorite cousin over helped to keep your spirits up and he had a fantastic time with the twins, too!

Emma insisted on being dressed in one of Logan's shirts (a hand-me-down from Max, actually), and managed to really rock it.
Emma rockin' the "I just slept over at my boyfriend's house and stole his shirt" look.

While you guys were running around the yard and completely soaking each other, Daddy worked on your cake (Note that your previous poor behavior meant the Mommy didn't make the cake this year. Maybe next year!) and did an excellent job. I made sure that you all got to indulge in the rights of childhood and lick the bowl and the beater.

No birthday experience is complete without that!

Pretty soon, though, it was time to head out to the Butterfly Pavilion!

First we got to have our very own private bug showing, moderated by Stormi, the butterfly. She was great and later told us that she wasn't certain what to expect from 9 year olds, but really enjoyed them! (Apparently the party ages there are lots younger! Personally I think I might have my next party there! Woo!)
Let the lecture begin!

She told us that if at any point we didn't want to look at a particular point, to put up the Stop hand. Yeah. I was the only one that couldn't handle looking at some of the creepy crawlies.

Emma waits to see somethin' good!

The spiders,
Stormi shows us a Black Widow. Max is Not Happy.

Caitlin looks a little concerned.

Please note, if you have a thing about bugs, now is a good time to scroll to the end! You have been warned!

Did you know that scorpions with large claws aren't very venomous? True story! I learned a little something and now so have you! However, if you run into a scorpion with small claws, that's an indicator that it has very strong venom. Run away!

The girls react to the scorpion.

I love their facial expressions: horrified, yet fascinated! One day, they'll think about boys similarly!

and millipede
The twins check out Millie up close. Ooooh!

Millie the Millipede!

were fine, but the segmented giant stick bug and the giant cockroaches were way too much for my delicate sensibilities. I had to have Daddy take a picture of the stickbug for me.

Too horrible to look at in person!

Jenni, Axl (or Ask-ull as Emma calls him) and Emma hang tight and watch the bugs being paraded around.

After our close-up, it was time to enter the Crawl-A-See-Um. Also known as the Room that Freaks Mommy Out. Glass cases filled with dozens and dozens of giant cockroaches isn't exactly my thing. However, for you, I am willing to be daring.

As was Grammy, as she held Rosy the Tarantula!

And Daddy!
Eric says, "She tickles!"

This is an 8 year old tarantula!

And you!
So brave!

Several of your friends were also willing to hold Rosy as well which was very cool and brave! I was willing to photograph it all.

Proudly displaying their "I held Rosy" stickers!

Then it was time to crawl off to another exhibit and then the butterfly release!

The eyes have it!

Emma has a new friend! A zebra longwing.

Logan checks out Emma's hitchhiker.

Owl butterfly.

Zebra Longwing.

At this point, I'll have to leave this post as it is. I'm about to hit the road tomorrow and go to Canada for my mother's 65th birthday celebration! Solo!

I'll finish it up after I get back.

Enjoy the photos!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Twins are Wacky

I was bathing the twins this morning and as usual started with Emma first, since Logan really doesn't like it when I pour water on his head to wash his hair.

Once it was his turn, though, something new happened.

As I was spraying his hair with the shower head, Logan yelled "Save me, Emma!". Emma then reached out and held his hand while saying, "I'll save you! I've got you, Logan!". I think I may have died a little from the cuteness.

It's good to be a twin!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You Get What You Pay For: Father's Day

On Father's Day this year, we had Scott and Sierra come over for breakfast and then Eric's mom and Jim come over for lunch. We had a nice time with both groups, Logan especially. He becomes a barnacle that you have to scrape off of both Scott and Jim whenever they come over to visit.

Caitlin leaves a note for Eric on the chalkboard:
"Have a studendous [sic] non-horrendous Super duper FATHERS DAY! :) Love, Caitlin, Emma, Logan and Mommy"

There were plenty of noms and laughter and yet while in the midst of all this, it struck me that we all were missing our fathers, save for Caitlin, Emma and Logan.

Mine has become the polite stranger that I talk to on the phone every couple of weeks. He has no idea who I am and is now forgetting my mother. He refers to her as "the woman" or "her", when he goes to hand the phone back to her after talking to me for my allotted 30 seconds ("I'll give you back Woman now."). Alzheimer's sucks. Far more than I can probably ever explain. The worst part, to me, seems to the be thought that my dad worked so hard all the time we were growing up and was putting off hanging out with us and doing fun things.* He was putting it all off for "some day". Some day when he wasn't as busy, some day when he didn't have to bring home the bacon, some day when he would be retired. Then he could finally relax and enjoy us and the future grandchildren.


Except that Alzheimer's got there first.

Personally, I think he had it a lot longer than anyone realized. I was certain something was really wrong with him when he didn't want to come to my wedding.

That's right. He missed my wedding. On purpose.**

It took years before my mom and my sisters were also willing to admit something was actually wrong with him before they started taking him in for testing. Also, since Alz is a "rule out" sort of disease, they had to first cross off all of the things it wasn't, before coming to the not-so-stunning decision that it was Alzheimer's. I was clinging to the hope that something was wrong with him, rather than accept that he was just an asshole who would be willing to miss his daughter's wedding.

You know who's paying now? His grandchildren. Not a single one of them will ever know him as their grandfather. Not a single one will ever know how he used to be, back when he was fun. The possibility of piggyback rides is completely out. He doesn't remember any of them. They're like images drawn with water: you can see them for a moment, but then as soon as the paper dries, they're gone. Dad doesn't remember me or my siblings. He has forgotten mom and she's right there with him every single day. Although he did suddenly remember her name yesterday when I was on the phone with him, which was very nice.

I'm in mourning for my father and he's not even dead yet.

This is going to be a ridiculously drawn out mourning period, too.

Although I know my mom wants me to just accept it, I can't. I'm not ready to let him go.

Clearly, though, there's a life lesson here: you get what you pay for in parenting. Eric is here, every single day. He has a relationship with his 3 children and while it's not all smiles and laughter (Caitlin! Go! To! Bed!), it's more often smiles and laughter than not. He changes diapers, cooks dinner, washes dishes. He sings songs, reads books, chases babies, flips Caitlin upside down and pokes her when she's grumpy. He's putting in his time, exhausting as it is.

He both is and isn't a product of his own upbringing. His father wasn't there to show him what it's like to be a dad. He's making it all up on his own. He saw what he didn't want and is making a conscious effort to be different. To be better. To be there. Right where his kids need him.

Every single day he has the opportunity to be a good dad, a good role model, a good parent. He makes mistakes, we all do, but he keeps trying and succeeds more often than he fails. He's putting in his time. He's actively parenting and is available to our children. He's not waiting for that nebulous "some day", when he'll have more time or be less tired.

Caitlin is now old enough to remember these years well into her adulthood.*** I hope she (and later, the twins) carries the good memories with her always and chooses a partner/spouse/mate/life long love that meets her expectations of what a good husband and father should be. I know that I learned what to look for in my partner from watching my parents. I learned a lot of what not to do, just as I learned what to do. My childhood memories of my dad give me an idea of how well Eric rates as a dad, both from what he does and what he doesn't do.

And you know what?

So far, so good.

Happy Father's Day, honey. Happy Father's Day, dad. I love you both.

* Don't get me wrong, we did have fun with my dad. He used to give us horsie-back rides, cut giant slabs of watermelon for us that we'd eat in the messiest ways possible and spit the seeds out all over the backyard. He'd take us camping in the middle of Nowhere in Canada and we'd have long walks in the woods together. He'd break out the ice cream during blackouts during long NYC summers and we'd eat it while watching fireflies in the yard. As my sister reminded me, he'd pick out all of the bones from the fish he'd serve us for dinner, to keep us safe. He'd take us fishing, at least until we were teens, and even though I spent a lot of the time hurling over the side, he kept taking me back until I finally got my sea legs. Most of my best memories are from before I was a teen. The teen years are rough, for parents and children. My early 20s were rough, but that's just how it went.

** Here's the thing: after therapy related to family and work issues and a bunch of time, I forgave my father for this. I'm actually no longer mad. It's over. I regret it, but it happened. I was finally able to go to my father, sit on the floor in front of him and ask him if he'd be in my life because I loved him dearly and I wanted to be in his life and that I truly wanted him in mine. That was one of the single hardest conversations I'd ever had with him. We both cried and then we forgave each other and we moved on. It was just a few short years after this conversation that he was diagnosed. The best thing I ever did in my relationship with him was to get some level of closure from that single conversation. That even though I was angry for so long, that I finally stopped being angry, talked to him about it and we moved on. Together. The truth of the matter is that we hurt each other, but that's how family is: you hurt the ones you love. But if things work out, you still love them at the end of the day and maybe you eventually even forgive them.

*** I'm not going to sugar coat my relationship with my children, siblings, spouse or my parents. Growing up is hard. Parenting sucks. Then other times you wouldn't miss out on it for the world. All of life has its ups and downs and we do all make mistakes, but I'm not willing to pretend the bad stuff doesn't happen or that I don't do bad things. I've hurt Caitlin and I've hurt my parents. What I'm trying to do is learn from my mistakes, and hopefully, let others learn from them as well. Will Caitlin write about me one day? Very likely. Will it be hurtful? Probably. And that's her story. I will read it and I will respect that it's her truth and if I'm lucky, I'll learn something.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Caitlin's Summer Adventures: Sleep Away Camp!

For the first time ever, Caitlin has spent a week away from home, yet not in the care of assorted relatives.

She's been away plenty of times before, but it's always been to Camp Grammy or Camp Dawn or Camp Cindy or Camp Janet. This time, however, she went away, all by her lonesome, in the care of...strangers.

We sent her off to a Girl Scout camp!


We also sent in a secret weapon:


Her best friend, Marlena!

Could there be anything cooler than going away to a sleep away camp with your best friend? I think not!

We caravan'd up there with Misty and her gang and discovered that a) the Ranch was very far away and that b) it was a bit of a hike to the cabins!

It was a bit rainy, but very lovely. I heard hummingbirds zipping past as we walked.

Wide open spaces. But is it big enough for all the squealing?

Fortunately, Oliver was there to help Emma along.

"Come on, Emma!"*

Eric was there, too.

After we delivered them to their cabin area, we took off back down the hill.

Emma and Logan peek out of the gazebo while Lee says goodbye.

Logan discovered the thrill of walking softly and carrying a big stick.

What can I wreak havoc on?

While we were a little nervous to hand Caitlin off into the hands of strangers, we knew that she's a trooper and that with Marlena beside her, she's bound to have loads of fun.

"See you in a week, Mom!"

Caitlin has always been an excellent traveler and has never been really nervous about new adventures (On her first day of preschool she took off like a shot. Eric had to beg for a "Bye!" and a hug!). As a matter of fact, although we sent her with 4 or 5 pre-stamped and addressed postcards, we haven't heard a single peep out of her! So either she's having a fantastic time...

or she's been eaten by bears.

I'm betting it's the former.

* The sad part about this picture is that there should be three more before it that show all three kids holding hands, but they've mysteriously disappeared off of my camera. Were the twins involved? I don't know, but I'm sad the 3 toddler hand holding shots are gone.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

My Garden is My Eldest Child

It struck me the other day that my garden is 15 years old this year.

I've been tending and nurturing it, torturing it, weeding it and changing it for 15 years. Every year something is different, or needs to be changed or added to and always, always weeded.

It struck me that I've been raising a 4th child all of these years.

The garden takes nurturing and tending. It takes discipline, watering, cleaning and planning for the future. Some years it's an embarrassment, other years, my pride and joy. I get no greater thrill than when I'm in my garden working (i.e. weeding, weeding, weeding, transplanting), and someone walking by (In the front garden, that is!) tells me how beautiful it is and how they look forward to it being in bloom all summer, or I'm in the back garden and a hummingbird comes whipping by my face, or I listen to the bird song or watch tiger swallowtails land and take nectar.

It's never ever going to be "done". It's always a work in progress.

BUT --

Sometimes I sit back, in the hammock even, and listen to the birds trill at each other in the trees, watch the bees bumble from flower to flower, drunk on nectar, note the family of finches rebuilding their nest in my honeysuckle and admire the occasional dragonfly that zips in for a visit.

I have often noted, though, that I've bitten off more than I can chew with my crazy gardening obsession. This year, I decided to spend some hard earned money on having someone else manage the lawn, create a set of steps in the front yard up our slope and a create working area for me on the north side of the house. It's almost completely done.

A smarter woman would have had before, during and after photos, but I was a little busy with other things, so you'll have to forgive the oversight. Besides, my side yard has been hideous for years, waiting for me to get it together enough to get it "fixed", whatever way I may have in mind.
North side yard, June 2005.

That way changed a lot over the last few years. Originally, it was just lawn. Then, over time and through really hot summers and never enough water, the grass died out and weeds took over. At one point, we started work on building a path, but never completed it. I had planned on having a path and a shade garden on either side of it, maybe a fountain too, but having the twins changed all of that. Instead, installing yet another garden was just more weeding work. Now I've come down to this: a staging area.
North side yard, June 2010.

A place for my potting bench and planting supplies, wheelbarrows and equipment and a place to store yard toys when it's time to water the yard.

Also, most importantly, a gate.

Twin defying gate. I hope.

A small gate to keep the twins out of my gardening supplies. Because I know my children and they'd like nothing better than to strew hundreds of little black pots all over the yard and smash them.

The flagstone steps replaced slate stepping stones that were laid into the ground when we bought the house. Grass has continually grown over them all of these years and the bishops weed growing next to them has always made them unusable. A path you can't find to walk on is pretty useless. Turns out, those stepping stones were a lot bigger than I'd realized, so now I'll have to figure where else to lay them out. I have a plan for that already, of course. The new path looks like this:
Flagstone step pathway.

Bishops weed is all gone, too. Well...maybe not. That stuff is tough.

I've decided to leave the spaces between stones unplanted, although the temptation to shove some thyme in there is pretty high. I'll wait and see how the grass fills in around it. I really don't want yet another planting. Really.

The other area that got fixed up was behind door #1 (Door #2 leads to the side yard.): the trash bin storage area.
Trash bin storage area. Note that the small one is for trash, the large one for recycling and there's another large one for compost around the corner. We produce little trash but a boatload of compost material! Especially during weeding season.

I had my lawn/landscape guy level the floor (years of rainstorms had washed a bunch of soil away and it was always muddy) and use "found" concrete pavers to flatten it and secure the gravel fines. Turns out the people that put the slate steps in had made foundations for the steps first. I don't know why, but there they were, square concrete slabs for use. Not pretty, but functional.

Every year, change comes to the garden. I try my best to keep it in line, but it often gets away from me. With some help from family and paid help, I get through the year. Some days it's restful and fantastic and filled with life. Other times it's a weedy mess and makes me tear my hair out and depresses me with the sheer amount of work left to be done. If I get any five things on my mental list done for the year, it's a successful gardening year. The thing is, that list gets longer, not shorter, with lots of "I should..." and "I'd better..." and the perennial "Next year I'll...".

For this year, I have someone else focused on the lawn (And it looks better than it ever has!), while I steal time and move plants around and plan for the future.

Cherry tree bed.

Maybe I'll mulch this year. I've already added columbines and bleeding hearts to it.

Xeric garden.

Desperately seeking weeding and transplanting. It has lots of "dead" areas where the sprinklers weren't watering evenly. Got Eric to change out some sprinkler heads, so I hope that's fixed. Now I just have to dig out a ton of volunteer weedy grass and replace it with volunteer plants from down in front. Columbines, anyone?

Sidewalk garden.

This one is the biggest eyesore. I desperately need to get in here and finish ripping it apart and reworking it. Hopefully that will happen this year.

Note that I'm not even showing you the backyard and all the work required back there.

Raising children/gardens is never done.


But change is good!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...