Sunday, May 31, 2009

In at McNeil!

Last week, I came home to find a great message on our machine. It was from the secretary at McNeil Canyon School. She said our out-of-area application had been accepted, and Liam would be able to attend in the fall. That is such great news because the class was looking really big and we didn't know if he was going to get in. But he will be there, and I'm thrilled.
Most of Liam's Raspberry Lane buddies will be at McNeil Canyon, and it's a school I've loved for several years - lot's of community involvement, a great kindergarten teacher, and a wonderful administrator. The only catch - it's 14 miles out of town, in the opposite direction to where we live. So that's about a 30-minute commute from town, on a good day. There is a bus that goes, but for the first year, we'll see how much we use it as it requires some really early hours. But I figure that even if Liam winds up having a terrible attendance record, he will be happier there than with a perfect attendance record someplace else.
It's funny to feel this way - I never thought I would be one of those picky parents. And I probably wouldn't be if Liam was more of a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. But that's not the case, and I'm very conscious of finding places capable of working with him rather than against him. And maybe I'm totally off-base, but that's my job, right?
We've had some great days here - Matt was off all weekend, and despite a huge to-do list and a rotating stomach bug, we got enough done to feel good about it all. My greenhouse is all fixed up, and the flowers are in the flower beds. I even put up netting to keep the dogs out of the garden this year.
Matt ordered a new door and windows for the rental cabin, that will hopefully fix the crazy leak in the wall/door area. We got a load of rocks for the new garden I want to put in in the front lawn area. And I cleaned the car - really cleaned it - after our little camping adventure.

I'm reading a book about sibling rivalry right now. So far I've learned that I'm doing everything wrong. It's daunting to try to rework your whole way of thinking about things.
Excuse me - Thea is trying to swallow one of those outlet plugs. My time is obviously up.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer slam

In the past week, we have weathered a week of manic fire scheduling, Liam's concerns about not getting to see Daddy many days, late nights and lots of snuggles. We muddled through graduation ceremony from the amazing, extraordinary Raspberry Lane Preschool (more on that later). We managed to pack and pull off a weekend camping trip. It has been a very busy week. Let's hope the rest of the summer is a little more relaxed.

The fire east of Homer was out by last Thursday, but there was plenty of work left to do. Matt worked 16-hour shifts for two weeks, which made it tricky for Liam and Thea to catch a glimpse of their dad. Thea managed it by waking each morning at 5:30 a.m. Liam sleeps in more and several times he missed Matt all together, resulting in some really tough days and nights. We did our best, but it is such a busy time of year. On top of the regular routine of cooking, cleaning and kid-wrangling, the outdoors needs a lot of attention in the spring. Dog poop and this year, volcanic ash, needs to be raked from the grass, the greenhouse needs to be cleaned up and planted, the garden turned over and planted, the flower beds cleaned out ... and then there was the shed, which was literally packed from one end to the other with trash and a jumble of winter gear that all needed to be properly stowed.

So each day I try to tackle something on that long list. But some days, like today, I feel totally overwhelmed by it all. The floor is a mess of dog hair and dirt from eight feet tromping in and out. Dishes. We need to get groceries. Laundry by the bucketload needs to be put away. And it starts anew each day. It makes me twitch, and all around me is the evidence of how I'm not getting it all done, and even if I did, it would only last for one day, and then revert back to its natural state - chaos. Gotta love summer.

But we had some huge distractions from all that this week, and not just the fire. Liam graduated from Raspberry Lane preschool. When he started two years ago, there were two full weeks of agony as he tried to wrap his brain around this new routine. Even after that, he had frequent meltdowns as he learned how to work through the many new situations preschool presented.

The payoffs, however, were huge. This school, with Miss Red, Miss Andrea, and this year, Miss Diane, was exactly what Liam needed - a place where his theatrical side was embraced and the class size was small enough to allow Liam and his teachers to find solutions when he became overwhelmed. At Raspberry Lane, Liam made friends with kids of all different personalities, and conquered all kinds of challenges. I owe those ladies a great deal for sticking with it and giving Liam a positive feeling about education. Let's hope I can keep it going through the years to come.

Graduation was bittersweet. Liam and his classmates put on a play "Who's in Rabbit's House." Liam was the frog, and the costume was an issue. I found out my friend Andrea had a frog costume, and I knew I needed to get over and borrow it early on in case Liam wouldn't go for it... I just had a feeling. But the week went nuts, and I didn't get the costume until two days before the play. Of course, he didn't like it (the eyes on the top were an issue), and off we went to the fabric store and got some green Bali fabric with a frog pattern on it. That meant I got to stay up till midnight sewing a frog cape with no eyes to be seen anywhere on it the night before the big day.

Matt managed to make it to the ceremony, which was very important to Liam. After the play, all the daisies (as they are called) ate and played and then lined up for their booming ceremony. Each was given a silk (a large piece of silk fabric and something they played with at the Lane) and each silk was a color chosen for that child. Then Miss Red read a poem for each one. Here was Liam's.

To My Little Knight

Dreadful the dragon, the menacing monster
Lurking alone in the dark of his cave
Fearless that fighter that marches to meet him
Bearing his bright sword, his people to save
Behold a knight so brave and true
Good deeds he will always do!

May bravery and truth guide you in all your adventures.
And remember, there will never be a dragon you can't tame!

After that ceremony - at which I got more than a little teary-eyed, Liam and the kiddos went outside to get their daisies and officially graduate. Then they posed for a zillion pictures and ran in circles until they worked off their nervous energy. After many hugs, and a few tears (mine, again) we headed out. What a day.

And Friday, no less eventful. We started packing for our camping trip on the Anchor River first thing in the morning. It is soooo much work to get out the door on one of these trips. There's food, bedding, clothes, emergency supplies, etc., etc. We got to the site and set up a couple tents to hold our spots for the weekend. Then we headed back to pack some more while Thea slept. By 3 p.m. we were on our way, and arrived just in time to get poured on while trying to set up the tent we borrowed for the first time. Wow.

But then people began to arrive and the chaos began. Thea was a mobile and into everything, and just keeping her from eating goldfish off the ground was a trip. It was a little louder this year than last, and lots of people camping, but our group wasn't too quiet either. Several other families camped with us like last year, and together we ate, corralled children, went for walks, and mostly stood around the fire (it wasn't too warm.) It's funny about camping - the during part doesn't seem like such a big deal, but the kids seem to really have strong, positive memories of camping. And it was really interesting to see how much the kids interacted when they came home. Something happens out there and for all the effort, it is truly worth it. And of course, they are so happy to be home, they play for hours without a peep.

Tomorrow, the summer schedule starts - Thea will be at daycare 4 days a week full time and Liam will be at Kachemak Kids preschool 4 days a week full time. I'm looking forward to a bit less kid-shuffling, and a less frantic work schedule. Hopefully, it will help balance things out.

Friday, May 15, 2009


There are days when I feel like someone should take away my title of parent and replace it with something like servant, both because it would be more accurate and because it would allow me to feel less guilt about my current level of job satisfaction.

Today was one of those days.

I took on a bit more than I should have after this crazy week of fire-photo chasing and general nuttyiness. There is nothing like two night meetings on a week with no husband and no babysitters handy to make me go to code red. Both times, I had no babysitter lined up for mandatory meetings hours before the meeting. Both times it worked out, but wow, I really have respect for single mothers.

So when my friend and fellow firefighter wife asked me if I could watch her kids last night I said yes, partly because I sympathize with her plight (she hasn't been able to get to work all week) and partly because I obviously need some childcare credit.

But three non-verbal kids in one house was an amazing situation. The littlest had a pretty good time, only getting sad when she really needed to go to sleep, and then falling asleep pretty fast. The 2-year-old and Thea, however, fought continuously pretty much over whatever toy the other one was holding for about 3 of the 5 hours they were in the same room. The only breaks were when I threw markers and playdough at them and when we went outside. I seriously don't know how my friends who have more than 2 kids do it, and I also don't know how child care providers do it. Crazy.

The rest of the day was filled with registering Liam for Kachemak Kids Early Learning Center's summer program. And while time consuming and crazy with Thea along because she pretty much trashed the place in a matter of minutes (no, no, NOOO don't eat that glue stick.... ) it was a light at the end of the tunnel.

You see, two weeks from now, Thea and Liam will both be in daycare four days a week, 8 hours a day. That, my friends, is something to look forward to.

Matt is totally MIA - he has been home for a few hours' sleep a couple of times since the 1,000-plus acre fire blew up Wednesday and ran for the hills, burning houses and scorching miles of forest. But for all essential purposes, we don't hear much from his side of the world, and I don't expect to for at least a week. It's amazingly rainy today, despite a previous prediction for sunny weather all week. And the fire is quite mellow, but Matt is a strike team leader (dont ask me what that means) so he's going to be out there for a while.

Liam bears the brunt of this stress - although I did manage to holler at Thea plenty of times this week - heck - today! Currently she has emptied all the boots out of the boot bin and is sitting in it, covered in ash, in an attempt to get my attention. A few minutes ago, she was chucking dominos at me. They were NOT plastic, and she has a surprisingly swift overhand (can you say softball?)

Liam on the other hand, does lots of obnoxious stuff like hiding and bursting out from behind corners. And oh my god he is horrible with 2 year olds. I am seeing my future and it is a bit grim.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Home fires burning

It's 7:30 a.m. and I've been up for two hours already, Thea is melting down and Liam has wrapped himself in Christmas garland beads and is sitting in the dress-up box.

We are all a half-a-bubble off plumb today because a big fire is burning in Homer, and of course, Matt is right in the middle of it all. The fire is currently 65 acres, several structures threatened and is east of Homer, but weeks of warm, dry temperatures make this about as bad as fire weather can be. So when the fire broke out, I started monitoring the fire radio to hear what was happening. That always sets the kids on edge. It's such a high-intensity thing, listening to dozens of people try to battle the impossible. And by the end of the night, they were both frazzled.

Liam especially is having a hard time with fire season this year. Last night, as I put Thea to sleep, I told him to draw what he was feeling about the fire. Not only did he do that, he wrote Matt a card, using real letters, completely without my help except for the word message. Here's what he wrote:

Dyr Datt I heop u get ziz mes(sage) to nit (heart) Liam

I was pretty impressed. I think he doesn't know he could read at this point if he tried.

The fire is just another chapter in the spring manic tempo in Homer. I call Matt "ghost guy" these days because I see evidence of his existence - clothes, dishes - but the actual guy ... not so much. The exception to this was last weekend, when I got totally Mothers Dayed - flowers, breakfast in bed, a day virtually free of domestic responsibility and the icing on the cake ... XtraTuf boots. I had this feeling like it was the calm before the storm, and I was right. With no rain in the forecast, I'm pretty sure we won't see much of Matt for days.

One of the hardest thing about having a fire burning in your back yard when you are a former reporter and firefighter is that I really, really want to be involved. Last night, I found myself literally pacing around watching the column of smoke. Maybe next year. But for now, I am sequestered to caretaker. Still, when friends called me asking for an update, I spread a little FireWise. If there was a fire burning a couple miles from my house right now, you'd better believe I'd be heading to the store to buy hose and sprinklers, cleaning up dead grass from around my home and looking critically at the fuels in the area. Because when it gets close enough to really worry, it's too late to do any of that.

Anyway, back to preparing lunches, wiping noses, and comforting worried 5-year-olds. Let's hope they get a handle on things today.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


This weekend was amazing - it has been hot and dry all week, and this weekend, the weather held and the kids and I spent every possible minute outside. On Saturday, Liam biked on the Spit for a total of 3 miles (yesterday, he complained of "growing pains" in his legs, which I figure were probably sore muscles). Then, when we got home, he figured out how to ride his bike down the dirt road to our house, and the newfound freedom kept him busy for most of the rest of the day.

There were also some crazy days. Friday, we went to Liam's school for May Day - think singing kids and a may pole and ribbons and bubbles. But Thea was impossible. She pingponged from one out-of-bounds activity to the next, while her peers sat nicely and watched the procession from their parents' arms. It was frustrating to say the least. It's like she finds the only things she can't get into and gravitates right for them.

And crabbly? Oh my god! It seemed like the child yells at me from the moment I get up till the moment I go to bed. We do timeouts. I make sure she's fed, rested, etc. But somewhere that is not quite filling the Thea needs reservoir to its full capacity. Sigh.

And of course I worry. She's been sleeping so much. Two to three hours in the morning. Another couple hours in the afternoon. And back to bed at 7 p.m. The only time she doesn't sleep is first thing in the morning. She wakes up every day between 5:30 and 6 a.m. without fail. Yuck.

We have been trying lots of new foods - all on the approved list - and of course right off the bat her face breaks out in a beautiful, red rash. Doctors. Harumph.

Liam has been having a tough time lately with Matt working so much. He went straight from full time daddy time to none at all with Matt gone when he wakes up and not home till he's asleep. Saturday night, Liam was cleaning his room and he showed me how he had set up the pictures of Daddy on his dresser because he missed him so much. Then his lip started to quiver and I gathered him in my arms and we sat on the couch for a long time while he cried and talked about how much he missed daddy and how pictures just weren't the same. Whew.

I've said it before. This parenting stuff is not for the weak of heart.

Friday, May 1, 2009

testing one, two, three

Well, we are back from our crazy week in Anchortown. Thea and I left Sunday afternoon after a crazy week trying to cram a lot into a week of almost no daycare. By the end of it I was frazzled, but managed to toss a few clothes and a lot of food into a couple of bags and boxes and off we went. We've been waiting for these tests for forever - it takes months to get an appointment, and we had to cancel one because we didn't know how to swing it financially. The insurance doesn't cover the cost of 4 nights in a hotel room, etc.

So after arriving in town, we settled into the hotel room at Inlet Towers, got some food, and managed to convince Thea to sleep in her pack n play, which I set up in a closet around the corner from me so she couldn't actually see me and might sleep while I worked and read etc. The only catch was I had to walk past her to go to the bathroom, so I didn't drink much tea after putting her to bed for fear I'd wake her up... the things we do!

The first appointment was bright and early Monday morning - it was so scary to enter this world of illness. You walk by people carrying kids and wonder, is that kid really sick? What are these people going through. Puts it in perspective. We met with a very bubbly doctor who spewed a steady stream of acronyms and left me in the dust several times but promised all would become clear shortly. Somehow docs seem to get the impression that I understand much more than I do because they all seem to skip over vital information ... funny. Anyway, Thea got skin prick tests for a host of foods and after the buzzer went off, the nurse came in and took a look. Negative across the board. Even milk. cat. beef. But skin prick tests are only for the mouth-swelling, throat-closing kind of allergy, not the gut-wrenching kind Thea most often suffers from these days. So on to test two, the one we really came for.

Essentially, they took a bunch of little metal circles and smeared food in them and pasted them on her back for three days. That's the test for delayed response allergies. So good thing I gave Thea a bath Sunday night because she wasn't going to get one again until Thursday.

Then off we went, armed with a book of pamphlets and a very tired baby. The next few days were a blur of shopping and visiting with friends. Thea and I went walking a lot - I so miss cities for that reason. Thea was a horrible shopping buddy - she would happily destroy every display she could get her hands on and pitched a several-hour-long fit when strapped in the stroller to keep her from said destruction. She loved the parks, however, and the nice, level sidewalks. And she really enjoyed the used kids store, where she found all the babies she could want and high chairs and bouncy seats to put them in - she could have stayed there all day, I think.

On Wednesday we went back to have the patches removed. We also went to get blood work done - test us both for vitamin d and test her for various allergy responses again. Frustrating that we did all that here in Homer, but those results didn't make it to the clinic, even though it was a referral. I am learning that one must keep all one's records with you. So they tried to get blood from Thea, but after two sticks, couldn't do it. She didn't even cry. I was awfully proud of her on that - she can be very brave. But unfortunately, we still had to do it all over again. They peeled the patches off her back and sent us on our way for the day.

Thursday morning was madness - I had an 8 a.m. apptment and was trying to pack up before then, but just couldn't do it. So I got most of it down, dashed to the hospital and got results that made the whole trip worthwhile. She tested positive for dairy and .... turkey. TURKEY! All along I've felt there was something we were missing that was causing her to respond. Thought I had it figured out with the potatoes, and who knows, maybe she was reacting to them back then. But Turkey? We have eaten that 3 night a week or more ever since last fall's tests red-flagged beef. So I am optimistic this might actually make a difference. Might not be the whole answer, but here's to hoping. And obviously, she is moving out of her dairy issues since she is no longer reacting to dairy the way she used to. So it is all really good news.

Then off for home, so happy to see Liam again and be on home turf, even if it took me all day today going full tilt to get things back in order, unpack the car and get some groceries. Tomorrow, we are going outside as much as possible. This may well be our summer, so we'd better snag it while it is here.