Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Raise Your Hand if You Love a Snow Day!!

Who doesn't love a good snow day? Waking up to sense the presence, the quietude of snow that lies untouched in the back yard? The illusion that everywhere things are good, pristine. Just a smattering of snow on the thin ice covering most of the pond. Underneath, the fish are dormant, in winter mode.

Inside the shed, spring tools wait, sleeping through the cold days and nights. Empty pots rest. Shovels lean against the wall and old seeds hide in the cracks and crevices.

The bench, while inviting on warm summer days, now sits empty, besides the occasional bird resting before bathing in the cold rushing water. The garden normally stark and bare in the November season, now white, snow adorning sticks and branches.

Snow resting atop Brazilian verbena as if it was meant to be. A new look for the purple stalk. Simple, yet lovely beyond words.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's My Mom's Fault...Honest

It all started in the mid 1960's. I believe my dad was president of the Mt. Baker Club House in Seattle and "someone" decided the clubhouse should host a Halloween party for the kids. Since my dad traveled a lot,  my mom let her creativity run rampant and recruited all her relatives in the city to help. I didn't know my mom was the witch or my cousin Doug Frankenstein until I was 17 years old! It was a party to beat all parties! Slightly frightening scenarios, eerie music, ugly creatures, and just enough 'scare' to be fun and create memories.

And thus "it" was started. Mom went batty over Halloween. We hosted haunted houses in our basement in Seattle or in the garage in Issaquah! We decorated with tombstones, creepy medicine, bats, spiders, and all things creepy! Mom would dress up in her witch costume and having soaked her real leather gloves in water all day, she would grasp the trick-or-treaters hands in hers and nearly cause heart attacks in the under ten set!

{Pepto Dismal, Crustex Nail Remover, Sludge, you get the idea}

{This is a new one...each family member has their own!}
{Matilda in all her glory, she's aged well}
Matilda stood in the living room window. She is the dressmaker's dummy mom made in college of herself that is dressed each year with a black skirt, t-neck, gloves, an old fashioned paper mache pumpkin head, wig and hat. She's been a regular for the past 50 years or so during October.

Once all at mom's, I now am the keeper of all Halloween crap. It's been passed down. Is it genetic? I even, as of my last birthday, in October of course, have inherited the original leather gloves. Who else would want them? Mom knows I do.

I have however taken it one step further than my mom. I created a Halloween dinner menu unlike any other. Yummy! Appetizer: Dragon Scales and Booger Dip, Salad: Poison Ivy Leaves with Scabs with a light toss of Runny Mucus, Entree: Maggot Stew with Moldy Bread and for Dessert: Brownies with Orange Pus. Oh yeah!

Now you might think I'm a bit touched in the head, but fear not! I've just been creating memories for my kids, those that dare visit, and looking to the future with darling little cookie monsters, like Ali.
{Granddaughter Ali---so dang cute!!}

Monday, October 25, 2010

50 + 2

Yesterday I turned 52 glorious years old. October 24.

I am half a century plus two. That's five decades plus two. And I'm proud of it.

My mother-in-law always said that age doesn't matter. Perhaps to some it doesn't. It does to me. I had my childhood years, teens (oh dear God thank-you for letting me survive), my twenties (marriage, children, houses, pets, jobs), thirties (children in their teens, oh dear!), my forties (teens in college and out), and now my fifties (empty nest-most of the time, and being a gramma). I'm clapping for myself! You may join if you like.

As I've rolled into my fifties, I am more sure of myself, don't care a lot about...a lot of things, am more patient, if a bit sarcastic, I love more, look for the little things in life that please me: diet coke from the fountain, laughing kids, the color of fall leaves, cotton undies (just sayin'), garden raised tomatoes, my husband's hand in mine--wait, he hates to hold hands, but when he does I appreciate it, slippers, text messages from my kids, the sound of my pond, and I could go on and on...the fact is, I love what's happening in my life (except for my thighs). My family is fabulous, the dogs are good, my husband loves me, and everyday that God lets me wake up I am grateful.

Call me blessed. I do. Happy Birthday Kelly!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More Slaps...

"They" say death comes in threes. I believe this. First, a former student and recently, on October 5th to be exact, my sister's husband, Vince, passed away. We knew he had a limited time left, but this was too soon. It's always too soon. Their boys, 18 and 20, are the best and in looking at old family photos, the pride and joy was so evident in Vince's eyes as he romped or just posed with his sons.

My heart breaks for Susie as she faces each day without her husband. Suddenly, she is a business owner, has her own job at Nords, homeowner, mom and all each 'hat' entails. It's a lot! Susie is very logical and strong, practical and funny, kind and generous, and now, alone. She has her boys, her mom and family, and perhaps the best friends in the world, but I know in her heart of hearts she aches. I ache when she does. The older sister in me comes out and I want to swoop down with hugs and cups of tea. So I do. It's what we do as family; intrude and love.

Then, just a week later, a dear dear friend of my mom and a former neighbor of 41 years passed away. This was too much for my mom. To watch her youngest daughter lose her husband and then to lose a dear friend she's known for half her life was difficult. Mom called me nearly coming apart and I just hurt for her. This woman was a pillar, a steadfast friend (she's the first call I made when my dad died so mom wouldn't be alone...funny how phone numbers you haven't called in years come back lickety-split), and one wicked seamstress.

I read somewhere that in the United States we don't talk about death much and it's true. It's mysterious and to some, frightful. What would happen if we talked about dying like we do birth, a celebration of one's life? I don't know the answer, just askin'.


Friday, September 17, 2010

A Slap in the Life

Sometimes our lives just move along merrily without hills or valleys. It may even seem mundane and we take it for granted that we'll have a tomorrow. Why wouldn't we? Then, SLAP...right in the cheek of life,  we find ourselves holding a hand up to our slapped life to check how much we're hurt, or soothe, or protect it from it happening again, so soon. Each minute of our hours, our days are worth something to someone, even if we don't see it. The effect we have on not only our family and immediate friends, but acquaintances, co-workers, our favorite barista, or the clerks at QFC is long reaching like tentacles spread out to the farthest reach, we collect people as our years go by.

I was 'slapped' last weekend. A former student, a wonderful young man in his prime, wanted to take his own life and yes, he completed the task. Little did he know the effect this had on his school, former schools, past teachers, current teachers, friends, buddies, brothers and sisters of friends, parents of friends, neighbors, his community, and of course, the amazing family he left behind.

Unfortunately, we lose loved ones to accidents and illness which while sorrowful, we have some understanding, but rarely do we truly discern the taking of one's own life. A selfish act to be sure. Yes, the darkness can seem like the invisible black hole that sucks in anything within it's radius, never to be seen again, and yet, there can be light. Feeble and wavering, but someone, always there is someone,  holding a torch letting a pinpoint of hope, of possibility, of truth out wanting to penetrate the shield.

Is it really the end of life that's desired? Or is it a longing for rest, peace from inner chaos, a sabbatical from the choices we've made, an opportunity for a do-over? Is it a hole in our hearts that just won't heal?

Perhaps I feel more than slapped. Perhaps I needed to be. Am I giving my all to relationships around me? Am I paying enough attention? Do I try to reach out to make someone else's day a bit better? Do I need to pray more attentively for those in my life? Do I need to listen to what's not being said? Perhaps. Maybe I feel this way because this was a young man on the precipice of his future lacking knowledge of available opportunities he could have reached for or knowing how much he mattered.

Everyone matters. Everyone. I can't take for granted that everyone knows this. Perhaps this is the lesson I need to push forward in my life with...to make sure those in my life, near or far, know they matter.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gramma Loses Time in Class

Today Annie and Josh brought Ali to room 17 at North Bend Elementary. My classroom. Her first day in school. I introduced them all to my class who 'oohed' and 'ahhed' over Ali. A proper response. They will all pass fourth grade!

An interesting thing happened in class.  As I held my little grand-baby time seemed to stop. As I stared at her all peripheral noise was gone. No one else was in my sight lines. Just her.  I could see her faint little eyebrows, the few eyelashes she has, the perfect bow of her lip, and the hint of red-blond highlights in the tips of her hair. The perfect canvas of her skin. I was hyper-focused on Ali. I'm not sure how many seconds or minutes passed. I"m not sure I care, but is this normal? The 21 kids in my class could have made a giant pig pile or all ran out screaming and I'm not sure I would have noticed. Don't tell my principal!

Just before I led them up to lunch, one darling little boy asked if Ali was a girl or boy. Out loud, and with a smile on my face,  I asked him if he noticed the totally pink outfit Ali was wearing. I'm sure he didn't notice it was Juicy Couture! Now while it's true that not all baby girls wear pink and some wear blue, few boy babies are dressed in pink with frills on their fanny! He laughed too when he realized what he asked!

I didn't want my lunch time to end (what teacher does?).  I did shove some food into my mouth while Ali ate too, but I really wanted to just continue being Gramma. But, poof, I had to turn back into Mrs. Billington. Dang it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Amazing Ali

I've done and seen some interesting things in my life. I've walked on the Great Wall of China, stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon at sunset, stayed at a Buddhist monastery, sat in front of the famous Torii Gates at Miyajima Island, zip lined in Mexico, and been to seven states to watch my son in baseball, but August 28, beat all. I participated, helped, saw, and became speechless as my daughter Annie, gave birth to her daughter Alice Blyth Dumond.

Josh called us about 5ish August 27 to say Annie was in labor. About time! We zipped over to find Annie, Josh, and Jordan timing contractions. Annie leaned on all of us during contractions or we rubbed her thighs to relieve pressure, we walked the neighborhood, and finally went to the hospital. A three car caravan to Evergreen, we got Annie settled in with a wonderful nurse, Shirley, and began the sit and wait game. We laughed, cried, visited with friends and family, and loved each other.

Annie was so beautiful! In the jacuzzi tub she let the warm water soothe her aches, or standing, naked, she would sway back and forth through pain turning her focus inward to breathe through contractions, her skin glowing and pink. Later, Ed and Annie leaned into each other and touched foreheads as her epidural was administered. It sounds crazy, but it was an amazing moment as he held her tenderly; epidural buddies. Josh was right by Annie the whole time and if she couldn't see him, she yelled, "Where's Dumond? I have to see Dumond!"

I got to hold Annie's legs as she pushed and cheer her on. I saw baby Ali's  head as it crowned full of goop and meconium and it was incredible, amazing! Baby Ali was a messy little cone head, but to me a gift. As Ali was placed on Annie's chest, my heart stopped for a minute.  Baby Ali is Josh and Annie's, but loved by so many! I think mostly by me. I am the gramma. I already love this little peach of a girl so much with her black hair in back and cul-de-sac in front, her quivering little lip when she's about to cry, and her strong little neck muscles that have her holding up her little head just like her mama did.

Annie gave her dad and I the biggest gift ever. She and Josh invited us to be a part of the birth. Annie pushed Ali out at 1:30 am when she and Josh's lives changed forever. 

To watch Annie give birth was a gift, but to watch her become a mama is beyond words. I so love my girls.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Students, Babies, and more...

Sometimes there is too much going on in my head I can't seem to focus! For example: School. With my classroom being a mess until two weeks before school started and not entirely complete until the first day, I felt unorganized. I am one who needs my surroundings together before I can plan for the kids first days. Then I didn't have computer access until the day before school started and of course the printer didn't work. UG! Craziness. I was also up to my ears in technology classes, which were good if I had something to work on in class!
Then, the best wrinkle of all...Annie went into labor on Aug 27. She hasn't blogged her story and since it is hers, I'll wait. Suffice to say, her baby, my new grandbaby Ali born on August 28, just two days before school started, is perfect! I am in love with Ali and I am love watching my daughter love her baby.

Monday, August 16, 2010

School Daze

When the Back-to-School ads come out, so do the teachers. We hunker over the newspaper inserts of Target, Office Depot, and Staples cutting out coupons and making lists...15 cent spiral notebooks times 25 kids ( up 5 cents from last year), Ticonderoga pencils, crayons, markers, large paperclips, Expo markers in pretty colors, erasers, colored pencils, novel Post-it notes, Mr. Sketch markers and chisel tip large Sharpies for the charts, and anything else that we believe we need to enhance our teaching.

Yes, we do count down the days to summer vacation, starting from the first day of school. "Only 179 more days left" you'll hear chanted after school that blessed day. "How many days left until vacation?" is heard several times a year and "One trimester down, two to go!" We can hardly wait to get all the children on the bus the last day, ready for a well deserved vacation, but come the end of July we begin to emerge waiting for those ads to show up on our door step. We begin to fill in the dates of our plan books, looking back on last years to see what we did.

We might forget the classes of our first ten, fifteen, okay twenty or more years, or even last year's class remembering only what we want to remember. It's sort of like childbirth. This is done to protect ourselves. Our brains are reluctant to dredge up the memories of the obnoxious helicopter moms who circle round and round as we walk down the hall, the kid who puked on our new shoes or all over the kid next to him/her. The student whose only words were: "That's not fair!" [read the wall kid- 'Fair is not the same, fair is based on need.' You need to shut up] The kid who stole our best scissors, best paperweight, money, gum, candy, whatever, and then lied to your face. We also forget your face, so if you come back to visit you need to tell us who you are as you did not have porkchop sideburns in the fourth grade. That I would have remembered!

But emerge we do in early August. We begin to show up at school slowly bringing in the school supplies we've purchased because unloading it all at once would look like we raped and pillaged an office supply store. We slowly put up bulletin boards that welcome students, copy worksheets for the first week, organize our desk drawers  (this only lasts about 20 minutes), arrange and re-derrange the desks as we hear about our new students from previous teachers, make up schedules, class lists, pick out books to read, and think to ourselves that perhaps THIS is the year we'll stay organized. HAHAHAHAHA!

Yes, each year we tell ourselves we won't buy any more teacher books, or supplies, but we do. Each year we vow to love something about each kid, and for the most part we do. Each year we tell ourselves we will have the best year ever, and sometimes this actually happens, but we are creatures of habit starting in late July with the ads, and moving through the year until that last day, day 180 when we whoop it up as the kids leave our carefully planned nest, knowing the circle of life will start over again.
                                                The Mighty Fourth Grade Spelling Bee winners from
                                                     Mrs. Billington's class. Second place, fourth, and first place!                                   

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dog Daze

When Annie was two years old, Ed asked how old she would have to be before we got a dog. I said thirty-five. The very next day we had a black collie/cocker named Sandy and I became a dog person. Sandy put up with kids poking, dragging, chased, and loved. Sandy taught Annie how to pee in the vegetable garden and Charley taught Sandy how to be carried around by her middle or neck and not choke...much. When Sandy went to the big dog bowl in the sky we grieved.

About a year later, after an appropriate time we brought home Lucille the 11 week old basset, at 11 pounds, mostly ear weight. Sometime later (we can't remember!), we adopted Emmett the basset, a 6-7 year old extended length dog as a companion for Lucy. Companions they were, sort of. Emmett preferred humans and food to Lucy although she was tolerable. Along came Gracie June, a precious  Cavalier King Charles spaniel,  four years ago, and she was just another food source for Emmett and Lucy. Emmett, lived a good long life and is now with Sandy in dog heaven.

Lucy lives on. Earlier this summer we were very worried about our girl. Both her back legs have had surgery, host arthritis, and cause her pain limiting her excursions. It pained us to watch her try to get up or lay down. We thought perhaps this would be her last summer. Now however, with new bacon flavored medicine the size of a small eraser, we see big improvement! It only costs money.

Today I took both Lucy and Gracie June for a walk with success. It's actually more like a smell than a walk. Lucy has modeled for Gracie how to smell every blade of grass, small tree, large tree, and shrub, so the walk is often stop and start over and over again. Fortunately, Gracie does not like to roll in the most obnoxious pile of whatever stinky Lucy can find. She's too dainty.

Both girls used to pee like Emmett, lifting their leg, like a boy dog. Not so much any more, but occasionally it happens as old habits are hard to break. Lucy now runs and walks, even skips a bit, although this happens more on the way than the way back. Lucy sometimes sits down on our way back home, prompting me to think of the time we had to get the Home Depot like utility cart to bring Emmett home from a walk, like he was in a parade on his own float.

Lucy gets sore, but wouldn't miss a trip down to the river where she wades in to get a drink of water getting her tummy wet enough to collect dirt on the way home. Just enough to be nasty and get a wipe down. Gracie occasionally gets a drink, daintily, just at the edge of the river.

When Lucy stops to rest, so does Gracie. She doesn't want to leave her sister behind. I love this dog relationship. At home they have spats over bones and food, but truly love each other. Watching the sisters go for walks and to be a part of their lives enriches my human world. Oh pups.

                                              Gracie June and Lucy at Whidbey Island 2009.                           

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Umpire's Mom

For years I attended hundred's of Charley's baseball games, from age 4-18, when he was a player. I'd yell for him and cheer him on, bring orange slices and drinks as snack mom, wash the nastiest smelly socks, go through 3 gallons of bleach a season, and put more miles on the car than a long haul trucker. I'd feel badly when they lost a game or championship, and be their number one fan when they won.

Now I could care less who wins the game, don't know the players, and sometimes I don't know the teams name. I'm the umpire's mom! Inside, my heart double beats when he comes on the field to have the plate meeting. My son is in charge of the game. His calls move the game along, elating some, and pissing off others. Charles is the team's best friend or worst enemy switching back and forth over and over throughout the game. The manager can puff up to get in his face, yell at him, tell him how horrible his call was, and my son, the umpire, lets him vent, tells him to go sit down, once, maybe twice or three times. The manager then turns around, kicks the dirt, marches back to the dugout and sits down. All because my son said so.

When things get hairy on the field, players smack each other, or the air gets hostile it's my son's job to turn things around to keep the ball crossing the plate. He never knows what the game will hold. How the team will play. Who will be the big hitter or the crummy one. Each game is new. Challenges abound. Thousands of fans could be on hand or a mere hundred. Thirsty Thursday usually ups the fan count and makes the comments from the crowd sort of slurry! "I'll have 14 beers!"

I am proud that my son realized his passion and followed it. At 25 he's living the life many men think they could from the recliner, where of course, they know all the rules and are the best umpire, coach, and player. Little do they know the training, intricacies, rules, changes, evaluations, networking, logistics, and deep knowledge needed to be an umpire because it all looks so easy.

I sit in the stands incognito, not a supporter of the team or a player,  just a mom. The umpire's mom.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On being a Gramma and more...

Grandmother sounds stuffy, too proper, and uppercrust. Sort of like a tall skinny sour faced grand dame of the early 1900's. Gramma sounds cozy, welcome, like she has a good lap and either smells of lavender or cinnamon toast.  I think I'd rather be called Gramma and it could be any time! Baby Ali is now 37 1/2 weeks old inside her mama's tummy.

Ali has a crib to sleep in, many many soft blankies, diapers, wipes, a chair for rocking, and a wardrobe full of pink deliciousness. I think we're ready ready to go.  Now it's her turn. And like most girls, she'll show up when she's good and ready, despite what anyone else wants or thinks, especially, because she's Annie's daughter.

I've sort of been excited about this big event since the announcement in December, but the scientific or biological reality didn't fwap me in the forehead until this past June while teaching Human Growth and Development to our fourth grade girls. We talked about how their 'eggs' have been in place, in their ovaries, since birth. So this must mean that Annie has actually been carrying the egg part of baby Ali all her life. I pause to think about this...we mamas and wannabe mamas have been packing around our part of the children we have (or want to have) since day one. All part of a grander plan. Pretty amazing and sometimes this makes my head spin (not like The Exorcist or anything, just dizzy like).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mosquitoes: The Wrong Insect

It just happens that I am a mosquito magnet. Perhaps I smell bad or wear too much perfume, both of which they love. Or maybe I dress in dark colors or don't change my socks. At any rate, those female mosquitoes who 'blood feed' before they lay eggs obviously can smell me, since they don't see well, and zoom right in for a snack. It's good to know I'm providing protein for the next generations of pests. Not only do the females love to lay eggs, up to 300 at a time, or up to 3,000 in a lifetime, they're crummy moms! The old 'lay 'em and leave 'em' trick. Great. So all her brats hatch and are ready to bite my ankles in 4-7 days, and we all know my ankles need to be swollen to an even larger size. Thanks for that. I know they are beneficial to the food web, but I believe God made them, and said, "Damn. That's not what I thought it would be." And by this time, 600,000,000 had hatched and He couldn't unhatch them. Mosquitoes, like brussels sprouts, are just wrong.