July 2, 2012


If you haven't been hiding under a rock, you've heard of the massive line of storms that swept the Eastern US, starting somewhere near Chicago and speeding across the country through Virginia, DC, and Maryland, leaving downed trees and devastation in its wake.

Our humble abode lay right in its path, along with those of our neighbors and countless friends. 

It was a pretty wide path.

From inside the storm, it really didn't seem that bad. The storm was short, no more than an hour. So short, in fact, that Peabo - the only kid at home Friday night - slept right through it. It was blowy. Big wind, very little rain (because rain is apparently not in our vernacular this summer). Our power flickered on and off about 20 times, and then it came back and stayed on. 

And I really thought that was it.

When we woke up, I made a quick survey of the yard . Lots of downed branches and debris, but nothing too serious. 

Then I booted up the computer. My daughter's swim meet had been canceled. The neighborhood July 4 beach party, too. Most of my neighbors were without power, with the exception of my block, which is the only part of the neighborhood where the power lines are buried.

Which does make one think that perhaps - just perhaps - we should bury more power lines. Protect that infrastructure, right?

It's not often that I'm in a position to help folks. So I talked Peabo into walking the neighborhood with me and seeing what we could do. And that's when we saw how bad the damage really was.

A few steps from our house, a tree down on top of a car. Around the corner, power lines in the street, brought down when a large tree fell across the road. Two blocks were roped off to keep people safe. Around another corner, a tree down on a neighbor's house. Near the beach (we live by a river and there's a nice little beach), another tree had hit a transformer. 

Trees and branches and debris everywhere. Traffic lights and gas stations and grocery stores without power.

Our community rallied. Neighbors helping neighbors, offering their refrigerators and air conditioners and chain saws and time. The July 4 picnic moved from the beach to the home of our community association president, who had electricity and a pool and a willingness to open his doors to provide respite to his neighbors who were working hard to clean up the damage. 

Peabo and I did our part. We went down to the beach and picked up branches and cleaned up the recycling, which had blown from one side of the beach to the other.

When we got home we had another surprise. I found a shingle in my yard. Just one, but it was enough to send me and my recently acquired, very tall au pair to check the attic. I borrowed his height because I am too short to open the attic on my own. In the 7 years I've lived here, I've never once seen its insides. 

The second he moved the trap door, we could see it. Sunlight streaming through a visible, sizable hole right at the peak of my roof. Multiple shingles had blown off the ridge vent. The hole was long and narrow, and there was no way a bucket under it was going to keep that attic dry. And, given the damage to our small community, and to the much greater community beyond ours, no way I'd get a claim adjustor - let alone a roofer - out to fix it any time soon.

So I turned to my neighbors. Mostly for a ladder, so we could get into the attic, give the bucket a try, and make sure the damage wasn't worse than what we could see. They lent me a step ladder, and my tall au pair braved the 120-degree attic to give it the all clear. Then my neighbors went one step further. They pulled out the really tall ladder and climbed up to the roof. They assessed the damage. They sent me out for supplies. And then, because more rain was due that night, they climbed back up, and they fixed it. 

I remember the blizzard, and the blizzard, and the blizzard - yes, three of them - that hit in early 2010. And the three hairy fairies who helped me dig out. And the earthquake that hit last fall, when all of us on the block rushed outside, first for safety, then to check in and make sure everyone was safe. 

We've had more than our share of natural calamities of late. But it's those times that show you how good people really are. How they help when they can. The power of pulling together.

The power of the village.

I'm grateful to be a part of mine. And grateful, too, that my next-door neighbor and his son-in-law know so very much about roofs. 

May 18, 2012


My irises aren't blooming.

I have dozens upon dozens of irises in a great big patch in my front yard. I love irises, usually, though I'm not overly fond of these. They're brown, not purple.

Brown flowers. Really. I mean, who plants brown flowers?

But still. They're meant to bloom.

Not this year, though.

My little family has had a bit of a challenging year so far. My kids especially. It's a private kind of challenging, and one that demands a lot of my time. So I'm not blogging. I'm not doing much, honestly, outside of getting through each day as best I can, making the occasional grocery run, and doing everything I can to let my kids know I am absolutely, completely, 100% here for them.

Love 'em to bits.

My irises aren't blooming. I'm going to try a little TLC, and maybe move them from their shady spot into the sun. My friend Margaret tells me that irises love the sun.

March 4, 2012

The spice of life

A little over a year ago, my redhead was "invited" - in quotes because it wasn't exactly a request - to participate in his class's Poetry Day. He had to find a poem, memorize it, and then recite it in front of a classroom full of children and parents.

So he found a poem from his favorite book: Sandra Boynton's Snoozers.

The Big Yawn

A pteranodon
Will show off its yawn
Anytime you request it.

Both you and your chair
Could fit inside there.
Though I wouldn't suggest it.

He recited it over and over and over again, until he could recite it in his sleep.

In his sleep. Bedtime poem. Get it? Ha ha.

And because this is how these things go, Poetry Day was scheduled on a day when I had to be away on business. And his dad couldn't go. So our amazing Belgian au pair filled in and went in my stead.

And this is what happened.

The teacher called on the redhead. He stood up in front of the class - all his friends, and his teacher, and his friends' parents. And then he turned bright red and demanded that everyone leave. The teacher said no, they had to stay, but maybe everyone could close their eyes. He said okay. So the whole classroom full of people closed their eyes. He recited his poem.

And then he burst into tears.

Because I wasn't there. And because he has stage fright, in a big big way.

In first grade there's no Poetry Day. But there is a Variety Show. Entirely voluntary. My diva, a born show-woman, has been in the Variety Show each of the past three years. So the redhead knows all about it. He had no interest in performing, though. Not until we got an email from a good friend of mine, the mom of another redhead in my redhead's class, suggesting the boys perform together with another friend. I told my little guy, and he got all excited. Why? Because they were going to "Do the Mario." Literally. Two boys in Mario costumes, one in a Luigi costume, dancing for 45 seconds. In front of well over 100 loving parents, grandparents and siblings. In a spotlight, no less.

I figured he'd panic. I figured he'd cry. I figured he'd run off the stage in fear.

He didn't. He totally rocked it. He rocked it right through the dress rehearsal and two nights of performances. He rocked it in front of his brother, his mother, two of his au pairs, and the 100s of theatergoers assembled in the audience.

He's still a little afraid of zombies. And a lot afraid of the dark, though if you tell him I said that, I'll totally deny it. But he's not afraid of getting on stage and pretending to be an Italian plumber in a mustache.

Dance your heart out, kid. You make your mama proud.

January 14, 2012

Baby, you're a firework

My baby girl - which I probably shouldn't call her anymore because she's nearly as tall as I am - has been struggling a bit of late. She's going to be an official tween at the end of this month, because that's what happens when you hit the double digits, and that means she's running headlong into self-esteem trauma prime time. Which sucks for her. And it sucks for me, too. Mostly because it breaks my heart to see my smart, strong, brave, beautiful girl think she is anything less than everything.

And yet she does.

Last weekend, she and I took a rare evening together, just the two of us, with absolutely no brothers allowed. We went to the annual Girl Scout sock hop. It's our third year at this mother-daughter dance fest. Lots of elementary aged girls and their moms in poodle skirts, rolled up jeans, and high ponytails.

This year my diva wanted to be a 1950s style tomboy, because she's a tomboy in real life, so she went for the jeans and loafers look. And then she asked for my pearls, as she has every year. A little touch of girl in her tomboy get-up.

She was nervous heading in, which is what pre-pubescence does to a girl. I was, too. Not because I'm pre-pubescent (thank goodness for that), but because I'm not always very comfortable with the girl stuff. I was never a tomboy, but once I hit puberty I just stopped getting the girl thing. It's like everyone else was speaking a language I didn't understand. And while I did eventually learn the language, I'm definitely not a native speaker.

But once we got there, she was good. She ran off with her friends for line dancing and root beer floats and giggly conversation.

The evening flew by, and finally the deejay played his last song, Katy Perry's "Firework." Every girl at the hop ran into the room, crowding in front of the stage. And they erupted in song, fists in the air, singing out with the passion of youth and the total understanding that who they are is more than good enough.
You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the Fourth of July
'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go oh, oh, oh
As you shoot across the sky
This room full of girls, each of them as smart and strong and brave and beautiful as my diva, was shouting their worth out proudly to the world.

It was a moment, just a moment, of watching my diva know for herself that she can do anything, be anything, be everything. A moment of joy and confidence and reveling in the power of being a girl.

It's in there, all that strength and poise and power. And when she's ready, she'll share it with the world.