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Monday, September 11, 2006
I’m excited and happy today because my sister is coming to visit. Last time I saw her, she was hugely pregnant with her second baby. Today she is flying in from Boston out of Logan airport. Her carry-on luggage consists of Max, age 3, and her new 5 month-old baby, Sam. Their plane took off about 20 minutes ago.
In a few minutes I have to rouse Alex from bed to get ready to catch the bus for another day of 5th grade. I’ve already showered, and I’m pouring my coffee when the phone rings.
•Did you see the news?? my mom asks. •Turn on the TV.?
I click it on and struggle to focus. When I do, the world as I know it comes to a screeching halt.
My family is from •back east?. I went to college in Albany - just a couple hours drive from the Big Apple. Another sister lived in Yonkers and worked in Manhattan, as did many of her friends and husband•s relatives. A couple of my friends were working in Manhattan too.
“What the hell? It’s the Twin Towers!?
•They don’t know what happened yet.?
•Geez, it looks really bad! What time are you and dad leaving to pick up Deanne from Denver??
•In about half an hour. Their plane doesn’t get in until this afternoon.?
•OK. Have a safe trip.?
We used to go to New York at least once a year. Never went to the Statue of Liberty, though. Too touristy. We hung out at Rockefeller Center, went to Little Italy for real cannolis, cruised Chinatown, stood in line for cheap tickets to Broadway plays, avoided Times Square and taking the subway.
I dial my parent•s phone number.
“Hey! They think somebody flew a plane into the building! Oh my God! Did you see that? One just went in to the other tower!?
•Oh my God! Oh my God!?
•I’m gonna call the newsroom to see if they know anything.?
My heart is beating so fast. I can•t breathe. My hands are shaking so badly I have trouble dialing the number.
“Hey Kathy. It’s Lynn. Do you guys know what’s going on? My sister is flying in from Boston this morning with her babies.?
This can•t be happening, I think. This doesn’t happen to us. Not stuff like this.
“OK,? she says slowly, deliberately. •Do you know what airlines she was on??
My stomach lurches. Why would that be important? Why is she asking me that? Think, damn it, think.
•I think it was United.?
I will always admire and be grateful for the way Kathy sensed my mounting
hysteria and struggled with answering my question. I will never forget what she said next.
•They think some planes were hijacked by terrorists. They’re not sure which airlines, but one of them left out of Boston at about 9:15.?
About the time Deanne•s plane left.
I hang up and stand in the middle of my bedroom. I am numb. Almost paralyzed. “This can’t be happening,? I repeat over and over.
My sister. Her babies.
In the few minutes it takes to get Alex to the bus, the news is coming fast and furious. We had a vague idea of what happened. Two planes, two towers. Another plane crashed into a field somewhere.
•Mom, did you try and call Deanne??
•I tried her cell phone. There’s no service. What did they say at the Sentinel??
How do you find the words to say it? If you say it will it make it real? How do you wrap your mind around believing you just saw your sister and your two nephews blown into tiny pieces across the Manhattan skyline?
•I’m coming over.?
Somebody please! What the hell is happening?
My mom calls and says she•s going to a neighbor’s. I meet her there. She and dad are dressed and ready to leave for Denver to meet the plane.
“Oh my God! The tower just collapsed! Oh my God! What is happening? Where are my babies?
Those words came out of my mother’s mouth. They were ripped out of the mouths and hearts of more than 3,000 mothers that day.
Where are my babies?
Many, too many, left behind babies they never saw, didn’t even know they were going to have.
By the grace of God, my sister and her babies were not on that plane. They had seats on the next one out, scheduled to leave twenty minutes later. She finally got a call out to say they were safe. The kids were okay. Max was eating pizza. Twenty minutes.
A few days later the e-mails started coming. The first college classmate missing. The second, a third, then a fourth. The messages kept coming. Then they got worse. Remains identified. Bodies recovered. Funerals pending.
The chaplain at my college and the chaplain then for the F.D.N.Y., Father Mychal Judge, the first to die when he was struck by debris. The best man at my sister’s wedding, Lt. Joseph Leavey, from Ladder 15, F.D.N.Y., the first unit on the scene.
The World Trade Center. The Pentagon. American Flight 11. American Flight 77. United Flight 175. United Flight 93.
“Mom, is the outside light on??
•No, honey, why??
"I just think you should turn the light on.•?
It will help him. To have the light on. Those bastards robbed him, robbed us all, of so much. Of feeling safe. Ever. Again.
I will never forgive. Some things are beyond the capacity of human forgiveness.
And I will never, ever forget.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Saturday, September 9, 2006
September is National Baby Safety Month.
Here are some tips to prevent accidental injury (the number one cause of death for children under the age of 14 in the U.S. according to Kellen Communications) that I thought were actually pretty good. I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing and condensing just to get to the point quickly.
#1 Mouthwash...contains high levels of alcohol that could really hurt your kid.
#2 Antifreeze...not good for the dog or the kid. Main ingredient is ethylene glycol which is very very toxic.
#3 Window treatments with hanging cords...Pose strangulation risk. Replace them or repair with a free retrofit safety device available here
#4 Latex Balloons...could cause suffocation when balloons are deflated. Don't buy Mylar (the shiny ones) balloons for little kids.
#5 Windshield Washer Fluid...can cause blindness if ingested. Seriously...I did not know that. Not like I'd let a kid drink it anyway but I guess it's really bad news.
#6 Funiture and Appliciances....they tip over so anchor them to the wall.
#7 Oleander....popular flower in beds and just a single leaf ingested could kill your child. Don't buy it and don't plant and don't burn it if you have it because the smoke is lethal too.
#8 Dieffenbachia and Philodendron....common houseplants that contain oxalates that can cause extreme pain and inflammation if chewed.
These suggestions are from the new book, "The Safe Baby: A Do-it-yourself Guide to Home Safety" by Debra Holtzman. Visit her site herehttp://www.thesafetyexpert.com/
. I'm definately bookmarking this one.
By Robin Dearing
Friday, September 8, 2006
Like riding a two-wheel bike, losing baby teeth is one of those childhood events that mark the burgeoning independence of every child.
Margaret has lost 6 baby teeth so far and she's yet to have a loose tooth.
It's a bummer, she's had to have 6 teeth pulled so far in order to allow those seemingly giant adult teeth to move on in.
She had the two bottom teeth pulled in February because her adult teeth were coming in behind the baby ones — like shark teeth. The adult teeth quickly moved forward and filled the gap. But we were warned that having the top adult teeth come in behind the baby ones could cause problems, so we followed the pediatric dentist's advice and had them pulled.
This procedure was more difficult than the first time. It required more shots of novicaine (we never told her that she had shots in her mouth, but she sure felt them this time) and she cried a bit when the teeth were pulled.
The dentist worked quickly and she rebounded faster than I would have.
Bill and I did our best to comfort her but it wasn't until she was told that she could pick a prize did her sober attitude turn sunny again.
Even though she needed gauze pads to staunch the blood oozing from her gums, she still mustered the ability to tell the dental assistant how she conquered the two-wheeler.
To give her a little time to recover, I brought Margaret back to my office so she could rest before heading back to school. Once she started to feel better, she proudly paraded her little envelope full of baby teeth around the office and showed anyone who would look.
My co-workers are wonderful people who oh'd and ah'd over the pieces of ivory and the bloody holes in her mouth.
By lunchtime, she was back to her normal self (such as it is) and I took her back to school. Her class was sitting quietly for story time when she walked in. One giant toothless grin and she had completely disrupted the class. One boy was agog as he said, "How'd you lose all those teeth?"
She beamed, her war wounds were appropriately recognized.
Thursday, September 7, 2006
Here’s the thing.
Denial can be your friend. Ignorance sometimes truly is bliss. And things that you don’t know about are things that you don’t need to deal with.
But dang, sooner or later you’re gonna find out that your kid is doing things, saying things or behaving in ways that are not acceptable to you. And when you find out, you have to deal with it.
I hate that part.
Discipline is constant. Discipline is eternal. Discipline never gives up. (Is that in the bible somewhere?)
I’m not talking punishment. That’s a whole different topic. I’m talking the constant vigilance that comes with being a parent. Especially a single parent. (Did I get any sympathy points with that one? Mmmm, didn’t think so.)
I like one of Webster’s definitions of discipline: behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control.
So discipline involves patrolling the fine line between respecting privacy boundaries and knowing at all times what your kid is doing and with whom he’s doing it. It’s about sticking your nose where your kid would just as soon you never stick it, and being able to smell if there’s anything amiss. And when something doesn’t pass the sniff test, you need to instill behavior in accord with rules of conduct. You need to train and control – in a good way.
That’s the part I hate. I’m the mom. I’m the milk and cookies girl. I don’t want to do the discipline thing! I like the sand around my head! I don’t want to start yet another conversation with, “Alex, I’d like to talk about . . . . “ or, “Alex, we’ve had this conversation before . . . “ or, “Alex, how many times do I have to tell you . . . “.
But because I’m a good parent - yes Alex, I am - I must do the discipline thing. Constantly. Eternally. Without ever giving up. But I’m so tired of it! Why can’t they just get it the first time and blindly obey, dangitall?
Even though I’m a good parent, I don’t think I’m the best disciplinarian. I have good intentions, but sometimes lack the follow-through. I’d rather hang out with my friend Dee Nial. She’s just so easy to get along with.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
“YOUR son is so spoiled,? the phone conversation started.
Soren is definitely a Daddy•s boy.
Right now there is nobody in this world funnier, smarter, or taller than his Dad. I’m really just Daddy’s sidekick who happens to feed him.
And Daddy is just as smitten with his little boy.
We spent a night at Trapper’s Lake Lodge
to celebrate our wedding anniversary. An undisclosed location near the lake was the site for our elopement last year.
Our cabin was clean and cozy. The lodge cuisine was good home cooking. Being the only baby guest, Soren was oohed and ogled over. He milked it by flirting with waitress and offering a big (still toothless)
grin to everyone we met.
We celebrated the anniversary with a HUGE hike to Wall Lake. It is five miles straight up a mountain, then of course five miles straight down which isn’t any easier. Marty had to entice me with promises of cheeseburgers and hot tub as rewards. “They’re called the Flat Tops Richie…just get up this next part and it’ll be flat.? Phew...ok.
Daddy carried Soren the entire way. Not in a snuggly or a backpack, but right in his arms. He now weighs 15 pounds and he wiggles!
But Daddy didn•t care. He just trudged along, stopping every so often to wait for panting Mommy to catch up. When they stopped, Daddy showed Soren the burned trees, let him feel the bark, taste the wild raspberries, showed him the stinky horse poop, and chatted nonstop.
Soren loved it and listened with rapt attention. He’d interject a screech or razz.
Daddy would make up songs and dance up the trail. “No baby no cry…?
At the lake, the baby was finally given to me to feed and change. I offered to carry the butterball through the flat meadow because I knew he had to be a heavy burden.
Daddy walked ahead on the narrow horse trail, turning around like a giant monkey grunting and scratching his armpits every so often as we walked. Each time Soren would laugh hysterically.
Dad would turn into a giant crab pinching his belly with clicking crustacean noises. And the nonstop chatter of the two pals continued.
When my arms were breaking off, I gave the baby back to dad and tried my own funny business. I was the monkey mom saying oooggaa oooggaa in my best monkey voice.
They both looked at me patiently but with no smiles. Apparently, moms don•t make funny monkeys.
Daddy would proudly show the baby off each time we met someone on the trail, bragging about his age and beaming when he was told how much they look alike.
Soren had to take a few catnaps on the long walk. As I was puffing along to catch up, I watched Marty unconsciously smooth his white blond hair with a kiss nestling the baby’s head into the curve of his neck.
I made a good decision marrying that man. I know exactly why Soren and I love him so much.
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
They keep coming faster and faster, these milestones.
Sunday Margaret learned to ride a two-wheeler.
And boy, am I exhausted.
At first it took both Bill and I holding on and jogging while Margaret tried to gain some control over the pink, Barbie bicycle that Santa brought two Christmas's ago. The girl seemed to be completely lacking in balance.
But as we ran and she veered and shimmied, she eventually started gaining some control.
Then we learned that it only took one of us to hold the seat and keep her from running to trees and fences — and believe me, it was a good thing, too, because we were getting worn out.
So we took turns running up and down the block holding the seat upon which my baby sat.
Then she was doing it, she was riding her bike and I was letting go.
The instant it happened I started to get that feeling, that one I get whenever Margaret reaches one of those milestones.
I immediately got a little misty-eyed and I was excited and just a touch sad. But then she wobbled and rode through the neighbor’s flowerbed and I lurched to grab a hold once again.
We laughed together at her crooked riding and she tried again.
By dusk, I was running behind her just to make myself feel better. She was doing it all by herself.
Monday's holiday began early for us as Margaret was anxious to eat her breakfast and ride her bike.
I put on my running shoes ... but I didn't need them. She was quickly leaving me in the dust. By noon she was riding around the block sans parents.
As she rode up to me, she said, "I'm so proud of myself. I can ride a two-wheeler all by myself!"
I'm proud, too.
Saturday, September 2, 2006
It’s Friday at 5:53 a.m.
It’s still dark out and dawn won’t break for at least another half hour.
Alex and I are in his bathroom. I am armed with several paint brushes and two tubes of paint. Alex is perched on the toilet seat (lids down, of course).
I carefully dip my brush in the first color of paint and with a semi-steady hand begin applying it to the right half of his face. As I get to the spot under his nostrils, his nose twitches and I warn him not to sneeze.
He checks the first half of his painted face in the mirror, then gives me approval to begin the second half. Carefully, as I keep an eye on the clock, I begin the second color. I am mostly successful at not smearing the two colors down the center axis of his mug.
“OK. Now let’s hit it with the blow dryer.? I said solemnly.
This is not some pre-dawn Native American warrior ritual.
It•s school spirit day and I am decorating Alex’s face with Palisade High School colors of maroon and white.
After the first layer of goo dries, I paint PHS in white on the maroon side, and a pretty decent looking Bulldog mascot paw print in maroon on the white side.
We have one minute left before we have to leave for the bus. A couple quick touch-ups. He gazes at his bad self in the mirror.
Then he convincingly says the three little words that make it worthwhile to rise extra early to do this.
“Mom, you rock!?
Yes, I do.
And he•s gonna have one hell of a time washing that stuff off.
By Robin Dearing
Friday, September 1, 2006
"Do you want a biewberry waffle for breakfast?" I asked Margaret the other morning. Then we grinned at each other.
'Biewberry' is how our little 4-year-old neighbor pronounced "blueberry."
Instead of correcting her or continuing to pronounce the word correctly ourselves, we adopted the baby-speak for that juicy, little fruit.
We've done that over and over again, adopted the baby-speak pronunciation of a word instead of actually teaching the correct way to say something.
Bill and I both still say "goss," despite the fact that Margaret left that mispronunciation for "gross" behind years ago.
You can still hear us say things like, "I like lellow" — a quote from my then-4-year-old niece (who's now 9 — gasp!) when she was proclaiming her affection for the color yellow.
And as Margaret is growing and experiencing new things, her vocabulary is expanding along with it. We've been continuously surprised by the sophistication of her language.
Perhaps that's why we were so delighted the other day when Margaret authoritatively stated, "My friend at school is black-toast intolerant ... she can't have milk."
Black-toast intolerant! Really what 6-year-old who doesn't have an allergy to milk knows the word lactose?
But oh man, did we laugh about that one ... too much, however. She became angry in that she thought we were making fun of her (OK and we might have been a little, but "black-toast intolerant," it's such a beautifully perfect substitution for a word that didn't exist in her world before a week ago).
Of course, that didn't stop me from repeating her grammatic gaff to everyone I've talked to since — that was until I was telling a friend on the phone and I got smacked in the back with a pink, pokey ball. When I turned around, Margaret sheepishly said, "Oops, it slipped." Followed by, "Where's my biewberry waffle?"
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Azure at 1-1/2.
Jack Swanwick is getting a jump on Halloween. Isn't he the cutest Pooh around?
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, August 31, 2006
I bought some Gerber baby food
for our recent camping trip. I know…I know. I said I would avoid buying commercial foods but the convenience and nonperishable qualities seemed unmatched when facing three days of cooler storage.
Upon returning, there was still a jar of chicken and gravy left which I popped open for the EDL. As I’m feeding this thick meaty sludge to the baby, my cat, Kenny, suddenly appeared from his closet hideout and began rubbing my legs frantically. He could smell it a mile away and SO wanted some.
I dished up a dollop…then another…and before I knew it there was more in Kenny’s tummy than the baby's.
Kenny has cost a small fortune. He crawled up half dead on our downtown doorstep one winter. He spent a couple of years frightened in kitty rehab under our couch and is now a finely adjusted pet. I even include him on our answering machine..."You've reach the Ashcraft's, Marty, Richie, Soren, and their cat Kenny..."
Last Christmas, he had surgery for hyperthyroidism…then a few weeks later another surgery for bladder cancer. He now has half a bladder shaped like a hot dog. Poor Kenny Kinkaid. It is apparent that he is on his last life. He’s been starving all summer refusing to eat but the most essential wee bit of soft or hard cat food. This makes me really sad.
That being the situation, I’ll feed this cat just about anything. Seeing him lap up that meaty goo makes us very happy pet owners.
I tried to make him a healthy version by boiling and blending a chicken breast. He liked it but didn’t dive in with nearly the zest he does for Gerber.
So, my plan to save money by making my own baby food has been foiled by the damn cat.
Yesterday, Soren and I trudged up to the corner store to buy 12 tiny jars of various meat products at a cost of .82 cents apiece. That’s per ounce and on sale! Talk about gas prices.
I was horrified wondering what the clerk must think as I deposit the jars like a little rock collection all over her counter and then reach down to adjust the tie-dye hat on Soren’s head.
I overzealously explained that I have a very hungry cat that needs this potted meat so she wouldn’t think Soren was on the Atkins baby diet. She smiled flatly because she obviously didn’t believe me nor care.
Yes, Robin, there is irony in every day and very normal lives. I guess those baby food companies are going to worm their way into my cupboard after all.