......finding a new home for lutefisk lovers.

(ok we don't love it. or even like it. but we're supposed to.)

30 August 2010

Will He Kiss Me?

Today was Liam's first day at his new school. And people are wondering "How will it go? Will he be nervous? Will he find playmates? Will he get lost?" But the question I was fixating on was "Will he kiss me at the bus stop?"

Every school day for the last 2 years, Liam has walked hand in hand with me to the bus stop; when the bus pulls up he urgently turns his face upward for a kiss.....then throws his arms around my neck for a quick squeeze before hoisting his tiny body up the giant bus steps.

The bus stop was a good place for us. Each time he put his hand in mine, I held its softness, its tiny-ness, its wanting to be there and I would think "How much longer will he do this?" Each time he turned his face upward for a kiss, I would say a little thank you and think "Next year he won't kiss me at the bus stop."

One day last year, while waiting for the bus, Liam says "Let's play rock paper scissors." Which throws me because I never taught him rock paper scissors. I still believe I'm his portal to the world. Never mind that he spends all day every day with 29 other children and a multitude of adults whose express purpose is to teach him new things. Never mind that. Where did he get this??? It's so weird. So grown-up. So we play rock paper scissors and it's fun. When the bus comes into view, someone yells "BUS!" and everyone forms a line, jockeying for position like there's some prize waiting for them on the bus. Liam is the littlest and has the least developed line-butting skills so he's always last. He turns for his kiss - I say thank you in my mind. Another bus stop mom sees our ritual and waves to her pubescent daughter. She shouts "Don't worry, I won't kiss you! BUT I WANT TO!!!!!"

I watch Liam find his seat, his eyes find me through the glass and he gives a little wave..........and then..........he does rock paper scissors. I play along and I smile because I can't believe how pure this kid is and how lucky I am to be playing this silly old-timey game with him through the school bus window. The bus pulls away and we keep playing and keep playing until the bus turns the corner and we can't see each other anymore.

Last night, I think about rock paper scissors. And I think about how his hand feels more muscular in mine and how it tugs and twists a little - pulling toward independence. I think there will probably be no kiss.

And this morning, he stands tall next to me, up to my shoulder. He's not nervous, he's excited and smiley. And when the bus pulls up, he urgently turns his face upward for a kiss...........then throws his arms around my neck for a quick squeeze.


29 August 2010

August 26th

Birthdays are big at our house. We LUV birthdays. Ok, Mike doesn't like birthdays - his or anyone else's. On his 22nd birthday, I made him a cake but he "wasn't hungry." Twenty years later we still fight about the many ways in which that is wrong. But Liam and I love our birthdays and we celebrate hard. Birthdays usually involve too much planning, too many people, too many treats and maybe some karaoke. And, in Liam's case, a trip to the state fair where he gets all the pronto pups, Tom Thumb Donuts, Sweet Martha's Cookies and root beer that he wants. Plus 5 rides not including the giant slide.

So this year, August 26th loomed before us with a big question mark. On this day, Liam would turn 8. After just 5 weeks in our new home. In a new neighborhood. Before the first day of school. You know.....where the kids are. Would there be anyone to invite to a party? If you don't have a party, does the birthday still count? Is an 8 year old clever enough to know that it's pathetic to only invite people over 40 to your party?

I shouldn't have worried.....because Liam's purpose in life is to meet people. And he doesn't wait for the Welcome Wagon - he knocks on doors. Well, I can't let him knock on stranger's doors by himself so, more accurately, I knock on doors. He takes me by the hand and forces me to leave the comfort of my anonymity - that place where everyone likes you and no one rejects you - to stand awkwardly on someone's doorstep like a door-to-door salesman. And what I'm selling is myself. And my child. As in "Hi. You've never seen us before. Would you like to be friends? Here's a list of our previous relationships. Please don't think we're weird."

And.......jackpot. He had 2 friends before the moving van even arrived. The first one barely blinked and told us to grab our swimsuits and jump in their pool. In the pool was a 7 year old girl. Perfect.
The second one was mowing the lawn; and it's never a good idea to sneak up on someone who's mowing the lawn. So I'm cautious and I'm coming up with a speech to cover up the craziness of the fact that we've lived here all of 6 minutes. He sees us and smiles with a total look of recognition. Shuts off the mower and says, "We've been waiting for you." Apparently, they have a 7 year old boy. Who is an only child. The pool girl is an only child also.

So they need us as much as we need him.

So that's 2 friends. Add a brother/sister team from across the street and you have a birthday party. And this time, when Liam begs for a party at Chuck E. Cheese, we don't say hell to the no. We look at each other and whisper "This may be our only birthday party with 4 kids. Let's do it now! Check that box! So he can't hold it against us in therapy!"

So I play skee ball (my only arcade game), Mike shoots at stuff, and the kids run from game to game - and I mean literally RUN. There's no walking at Chuck E. Cheese - until the tokens dry up and their arms are full of cheap crap from China that will get stepped on in the middle of the night.

The electric current running through that place lends an electricity to our tiny party that makes it feel real........not makeshift or sad. Thank you for that Chuck E. And Henry, Sophia, Luke and Skyler do a fine job of standing in for Ezra, Ambrose, Carson, Sam, Jack, Seth, Cal, Reese, Louis, Amelia, Francesca, Aidan and Nadia. I was worried. But I think we pulled it off.

25 August 2010

They're Rose Hips, Dummy!

How come everyone knew that these were rose hips (thanks to all who sent emails regarding my "What Are These?" post) and I thought they were "tomato - thingies?" I feel like I was born in a barn. Or an anti-barn (what is the opposite of a barn?). I had literally never set eyes on these "tomato-thingies" before I started my daily shore path walks......... and I thought I was making this great coastal New England discovery. I thought I was bonding with my new environment and sharing this foreign specimen with everyone at home. Like Lewis & Clark! But, instead, I find out that I just haven't been paying attention. So much for my next career as a botanist.

Here's what I found in my brief, haphazard, impatient internet search:

Question: What are Rose Hips?
Answer: Rose hips are the seed pods of roses. We don’t often see them anymore, because we tend to prune the faded rose blossoms to encourage more flowers. However if you leave the spent flowers on the rose bush at the end of the season, you should see these small, berry-sized, reddish seed balls, left on tips of the stems. They are actually very ornamental and birds enjoy them too.

Ok - so I'm not a complete idiot. It specifically says "We don't often see them anymore....." But still, I thought "rose hips" was a scent invented by The Body Shop, not something that potentially grows in every park in America.

Sigh. I really liked feeling like Lewis & Clark.

23 August 2010

The Tender, Persistent Heart

Liam fell in love for the first time when he was 3 years old. Her name was Sullivan and she was a classmate in The Yellow Room. She moved away the following year and his heart still hurts a little bit. She'll always be his first.

The following year, he fell in love with Ella in The Green Room. He never played with her. He never talked to her. He just liked to look at her.

In kindergarten, he fell for a scrawny, scrappy tomboy with scabby knees named Lucy M. Lucy M. was an actual friend. They sat next to each other during circle time and played together in the blocks center. But he loved her. And hoped to marry her. He was betrayed by a "friend" who told Lucy M. that Liam had a crush on her...... which was a new vocabulary word for everybody. Their relationship cooled after that. He wanted a commitment; she just wanted to play Nerf guns. In first grade, they only saw each other on the playground and on the bus where he always saved a seat for her - but she never accepted. I don't think he actually offered her a seat, though. I think he saved the seat and then hoped. But she always walked on by. Every day. For the whole school year.

Just recently, from the backseat, Liam looked out the window at the unfamiliar scenery and said, "I'll never see Lucy M. again."

Asking the question in this new place carries extra weight because it means he carried his crush with him across state lines to a new time and place. He wasn't fooled into forgetting her by the drama and intensity of a cross-country roadtrip, a new house, and new friends. I feel heavier this time; I thought his high level of distractability would push this little girl (that he hasn't actually spoken to for over a year) to a distant spot in his memory.

I assured him that he just might see Lucy M. again. I also assured him that he might meet someone here that he would want to marry.

"What do you think she'll look like?" he asked, weakly trying to be hopeful. And he seemed a little perkier after that. As in, "Yes, of course! There will be girls in my class. I like girls." Maybe this hadn't occurred to him before.

I worry about adolescence and his tender, persistent heart. Oy. But this tender heart is also what will make him good at being the new kid. He's not shy about saying "You're hair is shiny." Or "That painting is messy but I still like it."

And I will kick the proverbial ass of any 7 year old who takes his new kid status and his tender heart and colors it with a black crayon. You just watch me.

21 August 2010

What is This?????

The shore path is lined with shrubs that grow these funny little tomato thingies. Does anyone know what they are?

20 August 2010

The NOT Not So Big House for Visitors

My mom and dad are visiting from Minnesota, using the guest room that was featured at the top of our House Wish List. My dad, who has all of his marbles, is having trouble finding things. Like bathrooms. He keeps opening doors and finding closets. I sympathize; I still go into the bathroom to get my jacket. He also got lost looking for the master bedroom.

Don't worry, we found him.

16 August 2010

Sea Road and Ocean Boulevard

I pass this intersection just outside my neighborhood. I'll actually go out of my way to pass this place........ just so I can look up and see that I am at the crossroads of Sea Road and Ocean Boulevard.

This is one of the reasons I agreed to come here. I wasn't going to leave the city of lakes for nothing; and I most certainly needed something to fill the void left by my neighborhood lakes. Because one must have a destination. A place to go when you walk out your front door for a brisk walk or a leisurely stroll. I've lived in those places before - places without destinations. I'd go for walks and it always felt a little too vague. Like I was trying to stay atop a wavering chalk line. Usually, I'd seek out streets with pretty houses. But it still seemed manufactured: as in "I'm going for a 30 minute walk.......what direction should I go and at what point should I turn around?" Without these flimsy guidelines, I could just chuck it and go home. There was nothing drawing me forward.

But here I have a distinct destination that lies a mere 15 walk from my house. New Hampshire claims just 18 miles of Atlantic shoreline and I'm drinking it in like it'll be gone tomorrow. I keep beach chairs in my car and I have 4 or 5 spots that I've worked into my regular routine. There's the sandy beach with easy parking and ice cream across the street. The rocky beach that's a secret to everyone but my neighbors and me. There's the bike ride past stately sea captain's homes that ends at a rocky edge; I park my bike, climb down the rocks and sit in the little horseshoe of rock and sand until I feel sufficiently fulfilled. And then there's the walking path that hugs the top of the shore so you look down upon the surf. I walk past beach shacks and a tiny coastal garden before arriving at a granite bench dedicated to the memory of Jack Doheny. Sometime after Jack died, Eileen Doheny died - and now there's a foot rest in front of the bench. I'm sorry that Eileen had to die but every time I put my feet up I think "Thanks, Eileen." I don't know who Jack and Eileen were but I imagine they enjoyed this view together. And now I enjoy it for them.

Being this close to the ocean means I can go to the beach for 15 minutes between errands. I can get a quick fix before dinner. It's not something for which I plan or pack or arrange........it's just seamlessly woven into my daily existence. It's my destination. The Atlantic Ocean is my new Lake Harriet.

Since breaking my foot, the beach has been elusive. I can't drive, ride a bike or walk with stability. The sand is shifty under my feet and gets in my boot. The rocks are a gateway to re-injury. So I stay in my new neighborhood. Occasionally hitching a ride for a grocery run. And I'm starting to feel unmoored; like I could be anywhere. Any house in any neighborhood in any community anywhere in this country. Without the sea, this place is losing its shiny new home smell.

So I do my exercises, I ice my foot and I keep it elevated every night to reduce swelling. My foot needs to heal so I can keep the homesickness at bay.

13 August 2010

Mary Poppins Arrives

The night I broke my foot, Mike (who was out of town) suggested flying my mom in to help. And I said, "I'm fine! I can do it!" And Mike, stroking my ego, said "Yes, I know you can do it. But why should you?" And the only response I had was "Because I can!" Like I'd win some kind of prize. A prize for being exceedingly resourceful and not needing help. Probably awarded by your local chapter of the Sons of Norway. If you're Scandinavian, needing help is one of the seven deadly sins; right up there with hugging people who do not live out of state. Rules state you can only hug people who travel great distances to see you. Giving help - that I can do. But receiving help? Not so good at that. Because I can do it!

But his logic was......well.......logical. Why should I suffer on the couch in a strange house, in a strange town, with no one to lend a hand but one highly distractible 7 year old boy with no kinesthetic awareness? When my mom was probably sitting by the phone intuiting my need for help at that very moment? The decision was made. I agreed to call and simply inquire about the possibility of a visit.

Her bag was packed before I hung up the phone. Her only question was whether she should bake cookies and pack them in her suitcase or wait and bake them after she arrived.

And thus began a week of nutritious home-cooked meals (with side dishes!), a perpetually clean kitchen, disappearing piles of laundry and a fresh glass of water in my hands at all times. And she encouraged me to rest. Like go-back-to-bed rest. Which is nearly impossible to do unless someone tells you to do it; giving you permission. Protecting you from the judgement of the lazy police.

When Grandma first arrived, we made a grocery list based on the recipe cards she had packed for the express purpose of loving us through nutrition. I would sit in the car and rest my foot while she took Liam in the grocery store with her to "help." She went into the store with a list that said lettuce, chicken, milk and fresh fruit. She came out of the store with, among other things, marshmallows, BBQ chips, Gushers (what's that???), confetti frosting, Jell-o, Ritz Crackers and......wait for it.......SQUEEZY CHEESE! And we are NOT going on a road trip! In a word, Grandma is a sucker.

When she learned we had started a new allowance system for Liam - to encourage his helpfulness around the house - she tried to pay him for frosting a cake. Or eating the frosting that was supposed to go on the cake. A cake he begged her to bake. With the confetti frosting he begged her to buy. "Cake-making" is not one of his daily chores. His last name is not Ingalls. In modern times, cake-making is a recreational activity. A privilege with spatulas to lick. It would be like paying him to go on the slip 'n slide. However, I did not hate having baked goods in my house. Cake AND cookies. Simultaneously. So I guess I'll shut my cake hole.

Grandma was also the driver. Without her, we would have been prisoners in our own home, starving and smelly. But you have to wear your crash helmet because there's lots to look at and these New England roads are not straight. NOT STRAIGHT. You could head due north from your house without taking any turns - and end up back at your house. And these big seacoast estates are distracting to Grandma; she's all "Oh my heavens! Who lives there?! You should make friends with them." And I'm all "Don't crash! DON'T CRASH!"

In between bumper cars and bake-offs, Grandma was Liam's cruise director - taking him to friends' houses, entertaining him while we sat in doctors' offices, reading to him for an hour every night before putting him to bed (while I sat on the couch watching House Hunters......like I don't even have a child). She even offered to play video games with him. Video games make Grandma nauseous. But she saw the Wii and knew it would make him happy. "Wii," by the way, is pronounced "Why" in Grandma-speak. As in "Maybe after SquareBob SpongePants we can play the Why." It was so funny I couldn't correct her. Liam never corrected her either.......so he probably thinks he's getting a new toy called "the Why."

And when I mentioned that she did laundry earlier, I didn't mean laundry the way I do it. Which is wash one load when you need underwear, the rest can sit there til you need underwear again. Grandma's laundry is not just done - it's separated, treated, folded and put away. IN THE SAME DAY. She actually puts spray 'n wash on the bottoms of socks. "Oh my heavens, these are filthy." To which I replied, "Isn't that the part that goes in the shoe?" I guess she was scarred by an incident 40 years ago in which somebody commented on the cloth diapers she had washed. "They're a little yellow, aren't they?" this woman said. You mean the diapers that your baby poops and pees in? Yes, they're a little yellow. Bitch.

Yes, Grandma is a sucker. But she worked her tail off that week. Which allowed me to take the vacation necessary to get better - so I can have my life back. I just read a book in which the narrator loses her mother.........and mourns the fact that she just lost the one person who knew what she needed when she didn't even know she needed it. Everyone needs someone in their corner like that. Someone who knows what gives and takes away comfort; much of which has to do with food and cleanliness. Who doesn't feel better with a full tummy and fresh sheets?

The day after Mike got home, I woke up, THUMPstepped down the stairs, made my way to the kitchen table and sat down...........and waited. And finally realized that no one was going to bring me breakfast.

10 August 2010

Why So Many Ruminations About Crutches?

Because I'm all alone in this big house (Mike is still gone) trying to navigate one of the biggest challenges of my physical life. And the difficulty took me by surprise. Everybody has crutches at some point, right? My empathy for those with chronic physical challenges goes WAAAAAAAAY deeper than it did last week. And I am a very compassionate person!

But by day 3, I've created a system of leverage that allows me to get around on one crutch. This is important because it means I can carry something in one hand........like food. This method is much much slower (crutch(pause)......................good foot(pause)..............................crutch(pause)..........................good foot(pause) ). I sound like a horror movie coming around the corner. But now I can eat!! Yay!!!

Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror; my laborious one-crutch gait makes me look like a maimed soldier coming home from the civil war. Somebody please send me a little gray hat to wear around the house! Just so I can crack myself up!

But there's one thing I must get a handle on: the crutch turns into a weapon with which to beat people. People get in my way, I pick up my crutch and give them a shove. I'm on crutches! You do not want to get in my way! Pay attention! It's hard NOT to give Liam a swift poke when he's not listening. As in "HEY! (poke) What did I just say?!"

But good news. Mary Poppins, I mean my mom, is coming. She will keep everyone out of my way. And she might even borrow my crutch to do it.

09 August 2010

Crutches, Day 2, cont'd.

I forgot to mention one thing. One very important thing. On day 2 of my mobility-challenging adventure - the day I should be confined to the couch icing my elevated foot, 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off, the day my angelic neighbor took Liam for the whole day so I wouldn't have to leave said couch - on that day, our house was not yet equipped with cable TV or internet access.

Just to re-iterate: On couch. All day. No TV. No internet.

Apparently, there's only one part-time one-armed cable guy on vacation who can set up all the households who need to get wired. So he'll be here on the 12th of never between 12:01am and 11:59pm.

Oh, sure, I can read. But when I'm feeling under the weather, my brain doesn't want the New Yorker......IT WANTS ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT! Maybe a little YouTube. A Justin Bieber fix. I want to google myself and see how important I used to be.

Instead, I impress myself by doing nothing. I don't mean doing nothing productive. I mean nothing. Nothing. I lie on the couch, close my eyes........but I don't sleep. I do this for a long time. I think they call it "resting."

Later, I'm feeling sharper. I play "80's Scene It: The radical trivia game with all your favorite 80's moments!" by myself. I choose two 80's icon game pieces and put them on the game board. Who will win? The cassette tape or the old-fashioned cell phone? I take turns (with myself) answering questions about "The Facts of Life," Valley Girls, and Max Headroom. Cassette tape wins! I lamely pump my fists in the air (no more than shoulder height) and say a quiet "yay!"

07 August 2010

Crutches, Day 2

Now I'm crawling. Crawling is good. It's humiliating but it's a lot safer. I feel like a house cat.

But crutches are still necessary. Did I mention that my crutches have a sticker on them that says "YOUTH?" I tried to scrape it off but felt like I was destroying property.

I finally got smart and started using a backpack when I hop around on my crutches. Needing anything bigger than a Tic Tac turned into this giant puzzle; I would stare at the object and strategize. Maybe I could push it onto the ground and kick it across the floor with my crutch. Or I could crawl over there and put it in the waistband of my jammies - I could be back on the couch by Tuesday. And Liam still hasn't figured out the correlation between pointing and location. If he's standing next to me and I say "It's over there" and point in front of us, he turns around and looks behind him. Then the ceiling. Scans the room. The whole time I'm screaming "Look at my finger! Look at my finger!" We've been working on this for years.

This is why I started using the backpack. Now I'm an independent woman. As long as I don't mind gogurt and juiceboxes for dinner.

05 August 2010

Crutches, Day 1

Dangerous. So dangerous. I had no idea that the things you use when you have a broken appendage could actually result in another broken appendage. If my weight isn't balanced correctly, and I'm leaning too far in any direction, I have two choices: I can catch myself with my other foot - the broken one - and suffer immense pain and damage OR I can fall all the way to the ground. Which could result in another broken appendage. I pause before going up or down steps and review the procedure..........getting the instructions mixed up could result in, you guessed it, another broken appendage.

There's lots of hopping - in tight spaces or when my crutches are out of reach. So wearing a bra at all times is important. Even under my jammies. When ambulating, my hands are firmly placed on the handles of the crutches.......which means I can't carry anything.......duh. But I didn't figure this out until I got hungry. Unless I want to stand one-legged in the fridge and lick mayonaise out of the jar, I have to depend on others to bring food to me. The first morning, Liam brought me Ritz crackers and American cheese for breakfast. Which I appreciated. Because I wasn't wearing a bra.

A Short Pictorial Peek at My Mini Golf Mishap

The EMT's arrive at Captain's Cove; a very dangerous pirate-themed putt-putt golf establishment.

Liam with his putt-putt grandpa and his putt-putt brother.

Liam watching TV from my hospital bed in the Emergency Room. Thank you little baby Jesus for TV.