Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Few Things

This post is going to be completely devoid of eye candy because my camera and I are in talks. These talks go something like this.

Me: I would sure like to take a picture of such-and-such adorable moment right now.
Camera: Sorry. I need the little plastic door that seals my battery compartment in order to function reliably.
Me: But I've looked and looked for that dumb little part after it flew off in the dark the other night. Come on. Buck up.
Camera: Sorry. It's tough to be you.

I think we may require counseling. Please send help. In fact, you can scribble your counsel on the back of an $800 Costco gift card, with which I will purchase a BRAND NEW digital SLR camera that will launch me into a whole new era of blogging with aesthetic appeal. I'd call that a win-win, wouldn't you?

So, speaking of cameras, you may already know that we were on TV the other night. At 6:05 p.m., I was lying prostrate on my bed with shower-damp hair, zero makeup, and about 85% catatonic after a day of herding seven boys through Cub Scout camp. The phone rang. It was a super nice reporter from KEYE. He'd already interviewed Bethany, our lifeguard friend, and wondered if I would comment. The story was going to air at 10:00 that night. Could he visit our home in thirty minutes?

Fully awake now, I told him that my [sensitive, traumatized] children may not want to hear their story discussed and that I would meet him outside my house and make my remarks privately. No problem, he said.

I dutifully informed the children that a man from the TV station was coming to chat with me a little about our story, in case they happened to dash outside during the interview. I watched them closely for signs of color draining from their faces.

"Really??? You mean WE GET TO BE ON TV?! CAN I TALK TO HIM?!?!?" Ian and Caroline both demanded.

Silly mom.

On a completely unrelated and straight-faced note, I just finished reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Have you read it? Despite my love for historical fiction, I don't think I'd ever read a novel set on the American home front during World War II that focuses specifically on the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans. The story, which also looks at what it might have been like to be Chinese during that time, is appropriate both bitter and sweet. It manages to be disturbing without being gritty or graphic, tender without being cloying, and celebrates the ultimate triumph of pure, unselfish love. Four stars.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Moving Forward. I Think.

People are asking me, now and again (and by "people," I do include the newspaper reporter who gave us a jingle last night), "How is Caroline?"

And the answer to that question is, she seems fine. Quite herself, in fact -- maybe just the teensiest bit more clingy, but otherwise firing on all cylinders. Thanking God for the beautiful flower she found in the backyard. Trying to Jimmy-Carter me into buying her a brand new tea set. Drawing herself to sleep.

Then sometimes people ask, "How are YOU?"

And the answer to THAT question is a bit more complicated. Let us review. In about 48 hours' time, we went from this:

to this: 

to this: 

When you're in the hospital with your child, the world stands still. It's like a self-contained bubble in which you're barely aware of the passage of day to night and back again. You're completely focused on the crisis at hand and maybe even faintly convinced that the rest of the world is too, lacking evidence to the contrary. "GOING HOME" seems like magical finish line, the goal toward which you press, whereas going home turns out to be only the beginning of a complex process. Rather like pregnancy and childbirth, I suppose.

Once you come home, though, you have to plow ahead with something resembling a normal life. Part of you wants to disappear from the world at large and sit at home staring at your child, but life does not allow. In the past few days, as we've resumed normal activities and even been crazy enough to participate in all-day Cub Scout camp in 99-degree weather, I've felt torn between two urges. Urge #1: wanting to tell everyone around me, total strangers included, about what happened because I can't look at my kiddo without doing a tiny double-take inside and thinking, "I can't believe we got to keep you! YOU ARE A MIRACLE!" Urge #2: not wanting to keep retelling the story, especially in my children's hearing.

Then stuff happens, like the Professor shows me the picture Ian drew with the therapists at the hospital, or I watch Caroline climb hesitantly into a wading pool with her camp helper, and I'm blubbering like a malfunctioning sprinkler system.

So. Moving on. Two steps forward, one step back.

And part of today's Two Steps was Eliza's promised birthday outing. I took her, her friend Rhynn, and her little sister for tea and scones at The Steeping Room. Clotted cream made an appearance and received its due applause.

Okay, it was clotted cream. We'll call that a giant step forward. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

This is the Story

"And bring the fatted calf here and kill it,and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my [child] was dead and is alive again; [s]he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry."
- Luke 15:22b

As I sit down to write, the events of the past four days seem like a surreal roller coaster of sorts, a high-speed train ride into a dark tunnel and back out into the light. 

This is what happened, as best I can tell it. 

On Monday, our friends Suzanne and AJ invited us to their home for dinner, trying to give me a break since Tim has been sick for days and days. Tim was ready to be up off the bed, so agreed to go along. We arrived with swimsuits, towels and appetites to find a full cast already assembled. I'll name them here since every one played a role in our near tragedy and resulting miracle. The Ard family -- Cary and Karen with their younger daughters, Tiffany and Anna. Troy Bryant with his two kids. David Rodriguez, whom Caroline greeted with a big hug and "When are you coming over?" Mike Wollenman. Tino Nguyen. Trevor Walker. Sam Walker. Drew Roicki. And of course, Suzanne and AJ with their three kids. 

After dinner, I went outside to check on the kids, help one of them find a swimsuit, and see how Tim was doing. We chatted a bit with Troy and then I decided to see if I could give Suzanne a hand in the kitchen, since there seemed to be adequate adults to handle the 6-7 kids in the pool and hot tub. When I left, Caroline was in the hot tub with a couple other kids. 

As I helped washed dishes, Bethany Ard arrived. Bethany, age 17, doesn't usually attend these Monday night dinners, but due to a scheduling snafu by her boss, she hadn't been assigned to work that night. Her dad, who's involved with the football players and often brings them to dinner, asked her to come by, and whereas normally she might have other plans, she decided that why not, she'd pop her head in and say hi that night. As she, her mom (Karen), Suzanne and I chatted, Bethany relayed to us how three days ago, she had saved a swimmer in distress for the first time in her 2-3 years as a lifeguard. 

Just as she finished telling the story, someone burst into the kitchen shouting, "Caroline fell in the pool!" Now, honestly, my first reaction was one of only mild concern. Our four year old jumps into the pool regularly, and can swim a few feet to a waiting adult. She can also climb out of the pool on her own. If she's in water over her head, she always has a float ring on or is with an adult. So I walked, not ran, to the door, thinking that maybe she'd tripped, and that I'd see a wet husband and a sputtering child who needed a hug from Mom. 

Instead, what greeted my eyes and ears was a scene of complete horror. Children, especially my own son, were crying hysterically. Adults were running around shouting, someone yelling, "CALL 9-1-1!" Daddy was fully clothed, but not wet. And my child was limp, unconscious, bluish, and what little I could see of her eyelids were rolled back in her head. 

I cannot tell you the exact sequence of events that transpired over the next ten minutes. I remember Tim doing something to get her to vomit. I remember the children disappearing (later I discovered that Suzanne had herded them all inside and downstairs). I remember the sudden quiet. I remember holding onto my baby and hearing her father plead with her to come back to us. I remember Bethany kneeling down and beginning the chest compressions. I remember Tim tipping her head back and blowing into her mouth as I just held her by the hands. 

I remember AJ talking to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, holding up the phone so we could hear her instructions. I remember turning my head to see David standing behind me and asking him to have the guys downstairs PRAY. I remember him quietly responding, "They already are." I remember the blessed sound of the sirens and the even more beautiful sound of her ragged breaths as they became slow but regular. 

Then the EMT's were there, covering her face with an oxygen mask and lifting her. I had just enough time to grab my purse, sob for a minute on Suzanne's shoulder as she cried on mine, and then run to the ambulance. I had to ride up front. There was a Kleenex box on the dashboard. I sat there, shivering, with every muscle in my body rigid, wishing for the ambulance to sprout wings. Halfway to the hospital, the driver looked over from a communication with the EMT in the back and said, "I can hear her crying over my radio. That's a good sign." 

A good sign indeed, but oh, how I wanted to be there with her. I didn't know whether she was conscious enough to be spooked by the mask and the strange man at her bedside. I thought about the afternoon before, how I'd wanted to sneak out to do a couple errands and finally have some time to myself but knew I should say goodbye to her. Of course, she wanted to come along. I put up a feeble resistance, but it didn't take much for me to crumble. Along the way, we talked, at her prompting, about the reasons behind our family's holiday traditions and what it means to have your heart broken. She bought gumballs at  the Origins store for her siblings. There in the ambulance, not knowing what the next hours would bring and groping for a light in my grief, I felt so glad I'd let her come along. 

We pulled up at Dell Children's Medical Center (y'all: this is an awesome place) and I jumped out. The rear doors opened to admit the sound of my daughter's screaming. I ran alongside her, talking to her, but she never opened her eyes or seemed to notice my voice. In the ER, she was enveloped by a trauma team as a social worker came up to introduce herself to me. My first thought was, "Oh no. Not a social worker. She'll think we're terrible parents and investigate us for negligence." Especially after I had to answer the team's inquiries of "How long was she down there?" "How did she get there?" with a tearful, "I don't know." That, friends, is a conversation you never want to have. 

(Incidentally, it turned out that the social worker's sole job was to comfort me and be my ally. An angel in a form called Monica.)

They cut off her swimsuit with a large pair of scissors, her body looking so tiny on that bed in the center of the room. Her face was covered with an oxygen mask, which in her semi-conscious state, she still managed to hate. She cried nonstop, turning her head from side to side to try and rid herself of the mask. They finally let me come and talk to her, and I sang her favorite songs, "Jesus Loves Me," for one in her ear. She'd calm for a few moments, especially during a song, and then start right back up with what they later described as being "extremely combative" and "purposeful." Yup. That's my girl. But she never opened her eyes. 

My brother-in-law arrived, then Tim with Tino. I stood with them in the corridor as the team did X-rays of her "hazy" lungs and sedated her so they could put her on a ventilator and spare her body the wear and tear of fighting. Then they wheeled her into a dark room for a CT Scan. 

Somewhere in all of that, I remember calling Vanessa, seeing my tearful sister-in-law, Jenni, arrive, and beginning to shiver, which is what happens to me typically when I am in shock. Monica brought me a blanket. A man had brought me a piece of paper and asked me to write my daughter's name and birthdate on it. At the top, the scrawled handwriting read "Near Drowning." I stared at it, wondering if the man's name was Neal and why he had written his own name next to my daughter's condition. Only the next day did that note make sense. 

Now that she was sedated and ventilated, we headed up to the ICU, where they asked us to wait while they got her settled in a room. We sat for an hour in the waiting room as friends kept arriving to sit quietly with us. My sister came. Bethany and her parents arrived. Others who had been on the scene and many who had not. A few church elders came. Grace got her sleeping baby out of bed and brought him and her mom. We all seemed to alternate between crying, talking, and sitting with our silent thoughts and prayers. Some prayed aloud. I heard there was prayer taking place in various parts of Austin. In California. In Massachusetts, at my parents' house. 

As we sat, a few of us managed to piece together a little of what happened. Apparently, Ian, my almost-ten-year-old son, had first spied Caroline lying on the bottom of the pool. He saw a few bubbles escaping toward the surface and at first thought she was playing a game. Then alarm bells went off in his head and something, something which he knows now was God, screamed at him that she was NOT okay. He dived down to the bottom, grabbed her, and hauled her to the surface of the pool. He couldn't lift her out, so he yelled for Tim, who ran over and pulled her out. 

Aubrey, age 11, said afterward that there had been an inflatable raft on the pool's surface and she was under it, which was the reason that no one saw her until the raft moved. We still don't know how Caroline got to where she was, and she mercifully remembers nothing. My best theory is that she somehow lost her grip on the side of the pool or whatever she was holding onto, and then couldn't reach the surface because it was blocked by the raft. As hard as it is to think of the desperation she must have felt (but doesn't remember), my cousin shared with me later that she pictures two angels holding my daughter as she lay down there. Knowing that she was in loving hands the whole time gives me great comfort. 

Once the question of life or death seemed well enough settled, the next hurdle to clear was her mental state. She stayed all night in the ICU, hooked up to about eight different tubes and fully asleep. We rested on the foldout bed, but didn't sleep much. Her nurse was an almost constant presence, with periodic visits from a respiratory therapist and a doctor or two. By midmorning the next day, they felt it was time to let her try and breathe on her own. X-rays still showed haziness in her lungs, but they looked reasonably clear. But what about potential damage to the brain from lack of oxygen? 

She came out of sedation slowly, and the first sign we had was when Tim asked her where daddy and mommy were and she slid her visual focus over to him and then to me. Her oral and  nasal tubs were removed and I could sit in the rocking chair beside the bed, holding her and letting her hear my glad, glad heartbeat. Within a few hours, despite her grogginess, she'd reassured us all that her full mental faculties were intact. In between respiratory treatments, she blew on the party blower and pinwheel the nurses provided. She wanted me to snuggle with her on the bed, in between waves of visitors, and read her story after story. 

We stayed one more night and morning at Dell before she got a resounding "All Clear" to go home. So thorough was her recovery, thanks to the wonderful care and especially to the hundreds of prayers that ascended on her behalf, that our discharge instructions read "None," and the physical therapist who came to observe her ("Let's walk to the playroom, Caroline. Can you do that?" "OK! Let's skip!") told me that we really had no need of her services. 

I need to mention just a couple more things in this already very long epistle. One is that our other children are also doing well. The hospital provided Child Life specialists (social workers) to help them process the trauma. Ian spoke with them for a long time and was able to let go of much of the re-living he was doing. Thanks to family and friends, we were able to keep him in a distracting routine for the next few days. He and his sister are enjoying having their sister home and are even back to bickering among themselves -- a sign that life goes on! Caroline knows that her brother pulled her out of the pool and saved her from drowning, and she has expressed her gratitude to him in her own way. 

The other is that we learned a couple things from this very close call. One is a reminder of how important it is to be vigilant at all times around a pool. It's easy to get distracted with a conversation or one's own thoughts and take for granted that the kids are safe. If our story can help avert even one other like it, then sharing it feels worth it. 

We also learned (again) how rich we are in precious, loving family and friends. So many people poured out love, concern, prayers, offers of help, cards, gifts, hours spent by our sides -- more than we ever would have expected or hoped for. We're humbled and grateful and will probably never get a chance to thank every single one as we would want to. 

Of course, the final lesson is about the preciousness, the fragility of life itself. As I watched my daughter dance around the house this morning and reminded her to put away her artwork, it struck me again how easily it could have gone the other way. Today we could have been holding a funeral or standing around a graveside, with scraps of artwork left only as painful reminders of what we once had. We're aware that too many stories do end that way, and our hearts have been enlarged to include those grieving parents. But today we instead celebrate our normal, ordinary life -- clutter, siblings scraps, and all -- because it is LIFE. And we're living it together. 

Thank You, Lord. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Not the Story Yet

Hello, friends.

I know some of you, those who know me in real life, may be waiting to hear the full story of what happened to us on Monday night. Believe me, there is much to say. The story has been composing itself in my head in snatches ever since the initial crisis passed. It promises to be long  and rambling.

However, I've had no time to sit down and compose, and today, our first full day home from the hospital, has been one long migraine for me, which is limiting available brainpower.

So this is just to say that I'll be writing more soon. I need to get the experience out into words. It's how I deal with things. If you'd like to hear the story of our daughter's near death and full return to us (yes, it has a happy ending), please check back in later.

In the meantime, snuggle your babies, tell someone you love him or her, and sleep well.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Magic of Seven

"When you ask me how old I am tomorrow when I wake up, I will say, "SEVEN," my beautiful girl announced the night before, slipping into a clean pink nightgown.

"Gueth what?" the normally shy girl who's missing her front teeth asked the clerk at the checkout counter. "My birthday is in two days and I'm going to be SEVEN." Or THEVEN.

I can't help but love that about her. She was fine with her presents, but has never been a squealer. She cheerfully accepted the fact that it's not her year for a party (we alternate birthday parties with special outings with a friend, and this is her Special Outing year). She wanted to frost her own cake with her cousins, and the results looked loving, but not professional (she is her mother's daughter). But above all, the point was that she had now crossed the threshold into a brand new year, full of newfound maturity and promise.

At what point, between ages seven and thirty three, will that feeling pass?

In the meantime, she can stand as tall as she wants to.

P.S. In the photo, Eliza and her doll are wearing their birthday outfits, handmade for them by Shelli of Butterfly Egg Designs (we know how I am about sewing clothes; thank goodness there are gifted people out there). Shelli did a rush order for me at no extra charge and did a bang-up job. Hooray for Shelli!  Hooray for supporting work-at-home moms!

P.P.S. You can find another story about my girl's birthday rite of passage here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We Made It

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon …


Not even close. The only thing that’s been relatively quiet has been this blog, because when you’re falling asleep at 7:30 p.m., then bolting to your feet at 8:15 p.m., terrified that you’ve slept through a vital responsibility, the following truth applies: you do not really have the capacity to write anything anyone would want to read.

Things I have not been doing this week:
-Repainting my toenails (it shows)
-Reading for fun
-Reading aloud
-Responding promptly to emails, voice mails, etc.
-Noticing whether there are clouds in the sky
-Cleaning my floors/bathrooms/insert-household-surface-here

Things I have been doing instead:
 -Hosting two homesick nieces on their longest stay away from home
-Cleaning up a night’s worth of vomit (see above)
-Keeping five kids busy enough that two of them will be too distracted to think about being away from home
-Dealing with an especially hyperactive child (my own)
-Having pleasant discussions about using our kind words to treat each other with respect
-Feeling highly ineffective (see above)
-Co-teaching a class of sweet, precious seven year olds girls for a week of Bible Camp
-Feeling highly effective (see above)
-Confiding in a couple friends about a situation that’s been eating at me for weeks and getting exactly the right spiritual and emotional supply
-Being bullied by one of those friends, who’s one of the few with ground to do so, into calling my doctor and getting my thyroid prescription refilled (She actually Googled my dr., wrote down the number, and made me promise to call within the hour, because she likes to make sure I’m taking care of myself. Note to self: Pay that forward.)
-Reading picture books at night to a bed full of kids and snuggling them off to a peaceful sleep
-Having a husband on bedrest and IV antibiotics all week thanks to an infected lymph node
-Celebrating a certain someone’s birthday (that merits its own forthcoming post)
-Reminding the Lord every morning that apart from Him I can do nothing. 

OK, still not sure I’ve written anything anyone would want to read, but at least the agony and the ecstasy is now preserved for posterity. Good thing I’ll get to sleep in in the morning and just take it easy all weekend.

HA again!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's Special About Wednesdays?

Well, this, for one thing.

And this. 

Wednesday brings a box of mysterious delights from local farms thanks to Greenling. Maybe not the bestest thing in the world for our grocery budget, but excellent for our vegetable intake. After all, when you get all that produce, some of which you've never heard of before, who's going to waste it? 

Hungry yet?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lily and Thistle

Recently I discovered the most deeee-lightful purveyor of hand-drawn paper dolls and accompanying wardrobes. If you have a daughter (or hey, if you have a son; let's not discriminate) you must get your charm-loving self over to Lily and Thistle post-haste.

 Photo by Lily & Thistle

Not only will the artist, tastefully named Hannah, draw a custom creation for the child in your life, but also she offers both paper and downloadable versions of her dolls and outfits. Plus a few freebies on her blog.

Including, perfect for the reading family, this line of girls-in-literature outfits. I know a couple girls around here who'd love to dress their paper doppelgangers like Lucy Pevensie from Narnia!

Since I don't trust my printer (we have issues), I ordered the paper version of a doll package, and you will not believe how fast it arrived in my mailbox. No fancy express shipping, either. I strongly suspect Hannah had it delivered by elves.

And the packaging was gorgeous, too.

Good thing a certain someone has a birthday this week.

And by "a certain someone," I do refer to the dainty creature who looked like this when I last checked:

Just giving you the straight facts. Or would that be the straight dirt?

P.S. As always, this is not a paid advertisement. I have no relationship with Lily and Thistle other than as a very satisfied customer. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Adventures in Art

On Thursdays, the art museum attached to our illustrious university campus offers free admission to the public.

"Free" is a word that really resonates with me. I totally grok it.

Also, I sometimes feel that I'm a bit slipshod in the art department with my kiddos. Their exposure to the fine arts isn't exactly consistent. Please don't tell my grandparents about this. They own a Picasso and various other works, and would probably disown me if they knew their great grands couldn't tell a Monet from a Manet and haven't ever visited the Met.

So when we go, we go on Thursdays, and we seem to always manage bump up against their taekwondo class, so we're in a bit of a rush. The silver lining: We have to quit while we're ahead. The kids complain that they didn't get to stay long enough. This is a good thing.

We get a sampling of sculpture, classical, Renaissance, and American Impressionist paintings -- and a bunch of modern art, like the installation above. It's like a whirlwind tour of the past two thousand years in art. 
I never know exactly what to say to my young tourists as we wander around. Even though I loved the few art history courses I took in college, it's tricky striking a balance between, "Oh, look, what a PRETTY PICTURE!" and delivering an erudite lecture that would make their eyes glaze over. 
So my strategy is to say just a little -- to point out a couple things and let their senses do the rest. The goal at their ages is to enjoy art, to absorb it, to find what fills them with wonder or what makes them squawk, "I COULD DO THAT IN TEN MINUTES AT HOME!" ...  but not to necessarily comprehend what makes it work. 

And on that note, the girls and I have been reading this lovely book this week:

It's a completely charming blend of fiction and non, part travelogue and part art history through the eyes of a young Swedish girl and her grandfatherly friend. Experiencing Paris through her eyes brings back memories of taking Ian there as a toddler -- but that's a story for another time. Anyway, there's hope. Maybe they'll know a Monet from a Manet after all. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Which I Dismember a Chicken and Do Not Die

No, not one of our beloved pets, of course. But STILL.

So, I volunteered to make a dinner for a mom from our homeschool co-op who had emergency surgery. Here's the catch: Their family does not eat dairy. My family (read: I) does not eat gluten -- I don't make separate dinners for myself and my family. Here's the other catch: This friend? Is? A CHEF.

Awash in a wave of paranoia, I could not think of a single transportable meal to cook. Therefore, I did what any self-respecting person would do and posted a desperate status update on Facebook. Within minutes, I was informed that I should be making Chicken Marbella, from the Silver Palate cookbook. (Personal Note: If I were marooned on a desert island and could only have three cookbooks with me, my Silver Palate would be among them. It's that crucial to my survival.)

Armed with a couple of hormone-free broiler hens from Costco, I checked my directions this morning and found that I was supposed to have marinated them overnight. Yay me. But here's the kicker: I had to quarter them first.

I quailed. Please! Give me dental surgery! Give me waiting in line at Sea World! Give me walking barefoot a public pool in puddles of warm, slightly slimy water! Just ... not ... the quartering of a poultry carcass.

Normally I foist this job onto the Professor, in fact I'm pretty sure that figured somewhere in our wedding vows, but he had the gall to go to work and abandon me to my own devices. It's just me versus the bird. Again to the Internet I go. VideoJug offers an instructive video in which the cook neatly, tidily, renders the chicken into six perfect, juiceless parts. And talks about popping joints. Deep breath. I can do this.

So there I am, in my kitchen, averting my eyes from the view of the yard, where our five cheerful hens are innocently strutting around eating mosquito eggs and earning their rent. Do not look at the chickens outside. Do NOT. 

And as I attack the bird, I discover that the VideoJug chef was using a super-awesome, super-sharp knife, while I am using a knife that was awesome and sharp in its glory days. My friends, I am here to tell you, this makes a difference.

Also, nowhere in the VideoJug feature did I see a four year old helper uttering the following sampling of helpful phrases every few seconds:

"Mom. That is DISGUSTO. I am leaving the room." [Oh that this would actually occur!]

"Ew. Do you know how gross that looks? What is the skin for? Is that fat, Mom? Is it? Why don't you eat it? What do you mean it's not good for your heart? What would happen to your heart if you ate it?"

"Mom, Bear Grylls ate a DEAD SHEEP once." [Terrific, honey. Could you get him on speed dial for me?]

As I saw away, mimicking the VideoJug chef's work in the way that a pigeon resembles a peacock, I consider profanity, but God and the four year old being on the premises, I resort instead to creative visualization and yoga breathing. I picture the friendly smile of the mom for whom I am cooking. I do not picture her wearing her chef's hat. I picture the sailing excursion the Professor and I took years ago in Hawaii. I do not picture my sunburned toes.

Of course, every two minutes I have to scrub my hands in hot water and soap to go consult VideoJug again. Turns out, when your mind is in Hawaii, it's not really retaining much information that's actually relevant to your current situation. 

Half an hour later, I have two fully quartered chickens happily marinating away in a delightful sauce. I have a clean, sanitized countertop. I have broth simmering on the stove, fragrant with bay leaves and elephant garlic. The house smells almost heartbreakingly wonderful. To all appearances, it's been a June Cleaver kind of morning.

Oh, how deceiving appearances can be.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Remembering our Heroes

What does Memorial Day mean to you? I used to think it was just a Monday off, a day free from work or school, a time to inaugurate the summer grilling season and begin wearing white without fear of arrest from the fashion police. 

In the past couple years, we've made more of an effort to honor the true significance of Memorial Day. It seems one of the rare opportunities we have to put patriotism into tangible action with our children. 

We started off the day by meeting other Cub/Boy Scouts and their families at a nearby cemetery (personality quirk I may have mentioned: I love cemeteries. They're quiet, serene, and silently brimming with untold biographies.) We had a short speech, a prayer, and then the flag planting began. Every grave belonging to a veteran was marked with a small sticker, and for the kids, armed with flags, it was like a giant treasure hunt. 

Eliza took it upon herself to add a few flowers. 

Later that day, after more creek play with friends, we continued our family tradition of remembering our family's veterans. The Professor has a Prisoner of War journal kept by his grandfather, Pop-pop, during his tenure at a stalag during World War II (he eventually escaped, narrowly -- a story we wish we knew much more about). Like last year, we brought it out for a little show and tell, along with a map to illustrate Pop-pop's journey. 

This year I added a read-aloud from my own grandfather's recently published memoir, in which he devotes a chapter to his service on a troop ship in the Pacific theater toward the end of the war with the Japanese. 

It's not something we reflect on as often as we might, but I think we all went to bed last night feeling a fuller measure of thankfulness for the sacrifices -- of lives, of innocence -- of our own ancestors and their fallen compatriots. 

It's a tradition worth keeping.