Saturday, January 31, 2009

120 Degrees

This is my husband, Ken, in his CPM machine. Notice the TV remote in his right hand, that's how he's passing the time. There is so much good TV these days that he's learning all kinds of interesting things..right. I think CPM stands for Continuous Physical Motion but I can't really remember. The only information I can find on the machine tells me it's a Kinetec Spectra and we're not supposed to return it with the fuzzy pads, those are ours to keep. This tortuous-looking thing is actually supposedly going to help Ken recover, finally, from his November knee surgery. Scar tissue, we were told, was inhibiting him from bending his knee the required 120 degrees (optimal for healing), despite all the physical therapy he has gone through over the past 2 months. The CPM machine, we are told, will help.

Yesterday we arrived at the Portsmouth Hospital at 6:00am. Before hospital visits, even if they aren't mine, I cannot sleep. So I awoke very sleepy and tired yesterday morning, having slept only 4 hours. Few people were in the Short Stay unit that morning so were sitting in the pre-op room by 6:15. Around 9:00 (yes, it was a longgg wait) Ken was finally wheeled away while I was escorted to the Short Stay waiting room. Once soundly sleeping (and snoring, I'm sure), Dr. King cranked and pulled on Ken's knee, forcing it from a 90 to a 120 degree bend. At 9:10 (yes, we waited 3 hours for a 10 minute procedure) the doctor spoke with me just outside the waiting room, everything had gone well he said. Had it not gone so well, Dr. King would have had to use a nasty little probe to rip the scar tissue around Ken's knee to loosen it up. When I asked about the troublesome scar tissue the doctor went on to explain, not that I asked for this kind of detail, but he went on to tell me that you can actually hear the scar tissue snapping and popping as he forces the knee to bend. I still don't understand why they didn't let Ken stay awake during the procedure :)

So, now Ken is on the CPM machine the whole weekend and 3 times a day for an hour for the next 6, of course that's not true but I am pretty sure that's how Ken feels. This morning as he was walking around without limping and able to bend his knee 115 degrees ( the first time he could bend it that far in years) we were thrilled and hopeful. His physical terrorist will get it to the required 120 this morning during his PT appointment, I'm sure. much upkeep after 50!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Homemade Baby Food

"OK, I'm trying to work with you guys here. What is this green stuff you are trying to spoon into my mouth?" Little Miss A actually coughed twice as Mommy fed her a healthy scoopful of Daddy's home made baby food...peas. And yes, even though we all know that the last thing you want to do in front of a child is laugh at them, we all burst into laughter (and Grandma snapped yet another photo).

Remember the homemade baby food made on Saturday (see creative venture below)? As Miss A scrunched up and contorted her sweet little face and darted her tongue in and out and all around her mouth, we figured it must be the texture not the taste making the peas so alarming. So, we blended and smooshed and smashed and squished and tried again. Blended/smooshed up peas taste so much better! No more coughing. The kiwi applesauce, by the way, when down fine, thank you very much. Good job, Dad!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Mornings

I am beginning to love my Saturday mornings. My step-son and his two daughters have been coming over for the past couple of weekends. I love it. We have made home made pizza dough, played snowman with colorful Play Dough (who doesn't love a lime green snowman?), read books, and this Saturday we enjoyed finger painting together! Well, my granddaughter did most of the artistic work with me on clean-up.

My granddaughter's great aunt, that is my husband's ex-wife's sister, has a blog ( I thoroughly enjoy reading her blog several times a week. Today she wrote about it being National Pie Day so I guess we should have made a pie! But, looking at this picture, maybe not! This budding artist seems very engrossed in the feel and color of blue.

My step-son even got into the creative mood today, making home made baby food for his 6-month old. He made tasty peas, strawberry/blueberry delight, and apple kiwi applesauce. All natural, all inexpensive and all very healthy for little chubby-cheeks. As we spooned all this natural goodness into cupcake tins, we were taken aback by the difference in color and smell when you compare freshly cooked and pureed peas with baby food peas he had bought at the store. There is no comparison. One is bright yellow-green, smells like....peas!....and tastes fresh and clean. The other is green-gray with a funky kind of smell. We laughed when I checked on line for recipes for baby food. Pureed peas contain....peas! We didn't add sugar or salt to anything. Just peas or apples and kiwis or blueberries and strawberries. And what fun it was to make. Maybe we'll start up a little cottage industry - Sweetpeas - Natural and Tasty Homemade Baby Food!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Show Me the Money

I'm in a Seinfeldesque/Andy Rooney kind of mood today. I am taking a little creative break from sitting on a stool all day (forgot to take lunch) researching gifted programs in districts that don't fund or value such things, that would include New Hampshire not but not Maine or Massachusetts. I now see why people who sit all day for a living grow large :)

I happen to be lucky to live in a beautiful condo. My husband was involved in the building of it so we live here. However, we are not at all like our neighbors. The Mr. and Mrs. on both floors above us are millionaires. Both have other homes, using this residence as the second home (and in one case there is a third home). Their hope to sell, but there is no hurry. What has been of interest to me is what some people do all day when they don't have to run off to work at 7:30 each morning, but they do have a lot of money. Some go away for the cold New England winters to Florida or Arizona and spend the summer months up here playing golf or visiting relatives. Others stay indoors all the time (with the blinds down - wouldn't want to bleach out the furniture); the million dollar view obscured. Such people, I've noticed, can spend their entire days cleaning, polishing and moving all their things around. Move, arrange, rearrange, dust, clean, shine. Isn't there more to life than that?

I guess I just don't get this complete focus on things and on one's body. This obsession with one's body seems to go along with people who have a lot of money, but not always. The body has to look perfect from the coiffed hair to the matching outfits to the coordinating gemstones on all the perfectly polished finger nails. Have you caught an episode of The Real Housewives, recently? I watch with my mouth hanging open. Who are these people? The cars have to be continually cleaned so they sparkle...and here in New England, they have to be black. Black is the money color. Keeping one's expensive black car constantly cleaned is a trick in snowy, icy, muddy New England in the winter.

I would like to think that if my husband and I had so much disposable income to own 3 homes that we would put some of that money to better use, create a scholarship for those less fortunate. We've actually talked about that for our will someday, a fund, and we are not rich by any means. Maybe these people do fund large scholarships for the less fortunate? Ken and I work so hard for our money, just to keep afloat. I heard on the news it was over $150 milliion dollars to welcome Obama to the presidency. Does that seem a little over the top to anybody given our current economic crisis? It's like the woman who spends $150,000 on a wedding. Our wedding cost a couple of thousand dollars and everybody cried. It was a beautiful wedding, full of meaning and love. Money. Such an interesting topic. Lots of writers and psychologists write about the meaning of money. It represents who you are and how you are in the world.

Friends all around me are losing their jobs and I am saddened by that. At a recent school meeting the parent rushed off to work, fearful of being late because a list had just been published laying off some of his colleagues. In my fantasy life there is enough money for everybody and we all work together. Fantasy and reality, at least in this situation, couldn't be farther apart.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We: My Mother, My Granddaughters, and Me

Grandkids, oye vey. Who would have thought that becoming a grandmother would be so much fun? My own mother died nearly a year and a half ago. Although our relationship was at best, complicated, I loved her and miss her presence in my life. I think about her often and even find myself dreaming about her (and this is a big deal because I don't generally remember my dreams). The other night, for instance, I drempt I was trying to contact her. I sometimes wonder how I would react if my mom actually appeared as a ghost or I heard her voice on the phone or had some other paranormal experience ala Ghost Hunters (you know that goofy show where they investigate reports of hauntings?). In my dream, she gave me some sort of sign (which I cannot remember now) letting me know that she was still here, there, somewhere. It's strange to admit that I awoke feeling.....comforted.

As I read back over this paragraph, I recall that around the time my mom died I did have a strange experience that seemed kind of paranormal. As I was laying in bed one night shortly after she died, crying and thinking about her, the sweet and unmistakeable smell of roses filled the room. I looked, a little puzzled, if not alarmed, carefully around the room. No roses to be found. There were a few bouquets from the funeral; one on top of the refrigerator, one on the dining room table, but no roses to be seen. My mom loved roses, pink roses. My dad used to grow them in our backyard and he'd bring the most perfect ones in and hand them, lovingly, to my mom who'd arrange them in bouquets all around the house. That earthy scent of roses would fill the air then, much like it perfumed the air as I lay in bed grieving on that sad night. A sign? Who knows.....but maybe :)

I was never a mother myself. Who knows why that happened. I didn't sit down one day and say to myself, "OK, for this and that reason, I'm not having children." It just happened. And I never thought it bothered me much until I surprised myself as the clock struck 12:00 on July 14, the eve of my 40th birthday. One minute I was sitting on my parent's couch talking about all the plans we had made for my birthday; the next, I was flinging myself across the cushions, sobbing. I was not married, not in a relationship, and certainly not about to have children, ever, from that point on.

But I am loving being a grandmother...a Grand Mother. And, I love watching my granddaughters grow up. My littlest granddaughter was born on my birthday...yah, how lucky can a grandmother be, especially when Grandpa's birthday is July 7th and Dad's is July 19th. I remember the itty-bitty being she was that first time I saw her and laugh now at what a chubby-cheeked little 6-month old princess she has turned into. My 3-year old granddaughter (who I am reading to in this picture) is Miss Personality and really becoming quite the little learner. Every time I see her she knows more words, speaks more complex sentences and has grown a little taller. It makes me stop and think even more how time passes, day by day. I don't see my friend, Deb, for 2 months and she looks no different. If I didn't see my granddaughters for 2 months, I probably wouldn't recognize them!

I now find myself sitting comfortably between my granddaughter's lives new and just beginning and my mother's life recently ending. My grandmother's life, a quiet and distant memory is ever in the background. I am grateful to my grandchildren! They help me remember my place in life.

La grégue
My grandmother's drip coffee pot
still sits on my stove
a gift of my mother without a recipe
but with an understanding of the ritual
of making coffee in a patient manner
three teaspoons full of boiling water at a time
and then three more
until the pot is filled
It's just as we have lived our lives
my grandmother
my mother
and me
little by little
like making coffee
in the "grégue"
La grégue

Sandy Hebert LaBry

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sea Smoke and Life with a Lab

Sea Smoke

We are more than fortunate to live on an island in the middle of a river. I have been lucky to live on the water a lot in my life. Once, while I was in undergraduate school, I lived in an amazing little red, white, and blue caboose on Bainbridge Island in my home state of Washington. Nearly every morning I would walk out my front door to the beach (just steps away) and quietly sit on a large piece of driftwood, drink a cup of hot coffee and watch the Washington state ferries come and go. The ferries were very entertaining as they would leave Seattle,cross the bay and glide straight towards me turning, in what seemed to me like the very last moment!, sharply to the right as they slide into the dock in Poulsbo . On some days, the fog hid the entire bottom half of the ferry so that the top part looked like it was magically floating through air. It was nothing short of spectacular to witness. Bottomless ferries, floating around in the bay.

Just this chilly, 3-degree morning, as I looked out on the river in my "front yard", I was once again mesmerized by fog, this time by the clouds of fog hovering just above the river. The fog seemed to follow the river as it rushed out to sea. You'd think this was a peaceful, quiet scene but quite the contrary. As I stood out on my deck to snap this picture, the river was rushing, the clouds were racing quickly to keep time with the river, and the cold was biting me all over! Later as I drove over Memorial Bridge on my way to work the fog billowed up and down the river as far as I could see while the rising sun made the horizon blush with a pale pink glow. What a spectacular commute, I thought!

At work, one of my colleagues told me that the fog I so admired was called sea smoke! I love that...sea smoke. Technically, it's cold air that passes over the warm river (or any other body of water) and condenses. But, it seems more otherworldly to me. Sea smoke. I guess years ago it was sea smoke that hid those mammoth Washington State ferries commuting back and forth between Seattle and Bainbridge Island and it was sea smoke that I marveled at, once again, right out my front door. Similar memories separated in time.

Life with a Lab

Early this morning, 2:16am to be exact, I was awoken by my dog, Olivia, making those wonderful little noises a dog makes just before she barfs. Although Olivia sleeps on about 7 layers of pillows and rugs, topped off with a comfy dog pillow, the very top layer is always a towel. Before I could catch her, in that early morning fugue state halfway between sleep and wakefulness, she let loose, all over, (and I thank you, Miss Olivia) right onto the towel. " Nasty little piece of Nylabone, Livy"? I asked her as I threw the towel in the laundry, replaced it with a clean one and went back to sleep.

I was awoken again less than two hours later by the phone. Kind of early for a snow day to be called, I thought. We get early morning calls from our school in the event that snow and/or ice or some other natural disaster prevents school from opening on a particular day. Ken snapped right out of sleep. " Yes, fine, OK", I heard him say. " The sprinkler?" he asked as he hung up and told me that the cold alarm had gone off and the sprinkler system downstairs in our garage was about to freeze up. Twenty minutes later, just as I was falling back to sleep I heard the elevator open and shut. "Joy, can you come out here," Ken yelled. "What do you need?" I whined, hoping he would tell me to never mind and I wouldn't have to get out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4:00 in the morning. "Just come out here, please. I need your help." For whatever reason, Ken had taken the dog out to "do her business" at 4:00 in the morning (he must have been in a fugue state, as well?). The problem was that she returned with a little ball of poop dangling out her back end. Each time Ken tried to grab it, Olivia put her tail between her legs and turned around in circles. If I hadn't have been so tired, it would have been very funny. Ever the helpful wife, I grabbed the paper towel and captured the dangling menace while Ken held Olivia. Problem solved, off to bed we all went. "Go to bed, Livy," I barked as she bounced around the room, fully awake and ready to begin her day. Ken and I still had an hour more of sleep to enjoy. "Life with that dog", I mumbled to Ken, "is like life with a small child"!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Chill of a Northeastern Winter

How Cold is too Cold?

Winter in New England...cold, snowy, icy. Although I live in Maine, I work in an elementary school in New Hampshire. Last Friday morning during my weekly recess duty, it was so cold students were complaining about the chill. Kids don't usually complain about the cold so you know it's gotta be frigid if they are asking when the bell is going to ring. I was fairly warm, layered in my wool socks, water-proof boots, hat, two turtle-neck sweaters, jacket, two sets of gloves. Even with all these clothes on, however, as the wind gusted I was slowly losing the feeling in my thighs. Why don't we have indoor recess I wondered as I kept eyeing my watch....8:20 is so slow to come when you're staring at your watch. I sent one of my students to the office to ask what the temperature was, wind chill factored in. She returned telling me it didn't matter because we were staying outside! Moments later the bell, thankfully, rang. Somebody must have reconsidered or at the least, taken a closer look at the thermometer.

Once inside my toasty offic, I checked NOAA's wind chill chart. It must be dangerously cold, I imagined, certainly way too cold for kids to be running around outside. To my surprise, though chilly, it is not dangerously cold until it's at least 15 degrees and the wind is blowing some 55 to 60 miles an hour. Such conditions lead to a wind chill factor (and thus, the temperature we feel) of -18 and -19 degrees. Even with that cold, you can stay outside for 30 minutes before you get frostbite! My husband, from Michigan, laughs and calls us New Englanders (and I am a former Northwesterner) wimps. He tells me that when he was a kid, school was held until driving was impossible due to white-out conditions and he went to recess when it was 0 degrees ouside. Checking a teacher's chat room, a teacher from Massachusetts noted that her school's policy was to go outside if it was at least 20 degrees, wind chill factored in; a teacher from Minnesota wrote that " and above they're out there!" But, a teacher from Maine wrote that kids are out running around in the snow until it's 10 below zero.

The temperature last Friday as I stood out behind my elementary school on that very chilly January morning, was 17 with a wind chill factor of 7. Seems too cold to me for kids to be playing outside (and for me to be standing on duty). Luckily for me Friday was my last recess duty day in any kind of weather as I soon go on sabbatical!