Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beautiful "Springs" Day

Hi there! We're back from Hershey, PA and our trip was great. Even the long hours in the car were pretty good. So good, in fact, that Hubby was interested in using our last couple days of free time to tool around in the car to some of our more local family fun spots.

Yesterday, in addition to some much needed grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, we hit Lull Farm in Hollis, NH. As we're more often at Brookdale Farm for our farmstand purchases, we were pleasantly surprised with the great selection and diversity of fresh fruit and veg available at Lull. In additon to picking up our last ears of corn for the season, Hubby also picked out a nice selection of tomatoes, one pepper, lettuce, champagne grapes (yum!) and - Sweetie's pick? - blueberries. All in all a great looking, great tasting, gathering of healthy choices.

Then for today we headed on out to Springs Brook Park in Bedford, MA. My aunt and uncle live right up the road from there. Turns out my aunt and cousin (who's not yet back to college) were free today too. So they, along with my other cousin and her 2 year old daughter, all met us there for a picnic lunch and some general fun in the sun.

I grew up in OH, but every summer of my childhood we'd drive up to MA to visit my dad's side of the family. And many of those vacations included trips to Springs Brook Park. So I've been able to enjoy this beautiful oasis of summer fun many times over the years. But Hubby and Sweetie only were introduced to it last summer. Remembering the nice setting and clean play and water areas, it wasn't a tough call for us at all to decide to go back today.

Add in today's perfect weather (not too hot, not too cool) and the fact that most kids are back to school by now, and you have yourself one perfect day. Plus visiting with family and catching up with the goings on in each others' lives is always nice as well. How lucky we were that everything worked out so well for a nice visit at a great location on a perfect day!

The park opens at 11am everyday. Admission to Springs Brook is $7/person (but no more than $25 for an entire family). And with a newly redesigned facility including a water play area and more parking, there's much to do there and lots of space for everyone to spread out. Unfortunately, the season does end in just a couple days. So if you want to go this year, get there before the gates close the evening of Sept. 2nd. Or put it on your To Do list for something fun for the family to do next summer. I know we'll be there - will you?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Storyland in Glen, NH

I swear from the time my older son (OS) was about 6 weeks old, I began to hear about Storyland. Particularly as summer approached, it seemed like many of our friends' summer plans included a trip to Storyland. One woman in my playgroup went so far as to say that she didn't understand why people spent the money to go to Disney World when Storyland was not only closer and cheaper, but better.

Last summer I had just given birth to my younger son (YS) via a c-section so Storyland was out of the picture for us. Originally it was going to be out of the picture for us this summer too due to sheer laziness our busy schedules. However, we have a family reunion at Disney World in the fall, and, since my older son had sort of freaked out at the amusement park at the Jersey Shore Boardwalk this summer, I thought it would be good try a smaller amusement park. We went up for the day. Definitely doable and still enjoyable, but two days would have been better.
Overall, I was really happy with the experience. Basically, it's an amusement park for little kids. Every thing is downscaled so that if you're 3 you can go on anything. Most importantly, parents can accompany the kids on all the rides as well. The other nice thing for spinning ride newbies is that if the children need to get off mid-ride (or presumably adults), all they have to do is point their thumb down and the ride is stopped. The ride operators announced this before starting every spinning ride. Fortunately we didn't have to take advantage of this feature. The park is relatively clean (we did encounter one stinky bathroom), the gift shops are set back so you don't ever have to walk through them, and the food is very reasonable. We paid a $1.50 for a hot dog. You don't feel like they're trying to rip you off.

I am glad that paramedics have a fast response time to Storyland in an emergency, but I am sorry that I got to witness it when a toddler fell off of a bench about 10 feet away from me and landed on his face. Thankfully, other than a giant goose egg, the paramedic said he was alright.

My only real complaint was that I had been told by friends that my younger son could go on the majority of the rides. He's 14 months old. However, he's not walking and the rule is that the kids need to be able to walk for most of the rides. It seemed ironic that a 9 month old who was both younger and smaller than my son was able to go on the spinning whale ride, while my son could not. There were still other things for him to see, including the shows (which we didn't get to see), storybook houses, and a few lower key rides, like driving antique cars. Another consequence of his current lack of mobility is that he was pretty much stroller-bound. The park is cement city, and it was pretty crowded when we went. There was nowhere for him to really crawl around.

I have to admit, I was expecting to feel a Disney-like magic, and I didn't. It is perfect for kids who are old enough to walk but otherwise still pretty young. It's not somewhere I can imagine going with older kids. They would be bored.

Here are a couple of tips to make the trip a little cheaper:
  • You are welcome to bring food into the park

  • If you buy your ticket after 3 pm the day before, you get admission for the rest of that day as well as free admission for the whole next day

  • The American Lung Cancer Association of New Hampshire sells a kids Fun Pass that lets in one kid per paying adult. They have lots of other coupons for NH, MA and other parts of New England. If you're going to go to Storyland and one other place in their extensive list, it's worth it. (My kids were free this year because OS has not yet turned 4, but next year we'll get this.)

  • There are guest appreciation days in May and June where tickets are $19 instead of $23 per person.

My Husband's Going to Grad School, and All I Got is This Lousy T-Shirt

In a few short weeks, life as I know it will change radically. That is because my husband will begin a two-year MBA program.

I will be able to kid myself at first. After all, he is usually gone to work before 6am and home after 6pm, so those hours of the day are almost always mine, mine, mine. I may not bring home the bacon, but can I fry it in a pan? Check. Can I keep three kids, ages 3, 4 & 6, happy and entertained? Check. Can I keep the house clean, laundry done, plants watered? Check (sort of). Can I homeschool our oldest for first grade? Check (although I worry for my sanity at about this point).

But, I know that the day will come when. . . he has a big test, the kids have the stomach flu, my mom can't come over, the refrigerator is empty, the laundry pile is huge; and I will sob big salty tears for those days when "daddy" could take over for a few hours. And I'll know that I had it really good back then.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NE Mamas Recommend - Nashoba Valley Winery and Orchard

As one of our Mass mamas pointed out, autumn is knocking on our door. And to me that means apple picking season.

My poor, beleaguered husband, he had no idea what he was getting himself into when he met me. I live for apple picking season. I want my own bag and my own apple picking pole (although, after about fifteen minutes I'm usually done, spending more time eating the apples than picking them). I want to bring home many, many pumpkins to go with the obscene amount of mums I decorate my front steps with. I want it all.

Now I have a child who I've been introducing the wonders of fall to, and I have to admit it can be a bit trying. She has a limited attention span for the actual picking, but we still want to experience this bit of New England charm as a family, so our choices are:

Find a "family friendly" orchard with a snack shack and some playground equipment (not that there's anything wrong with them, but, personally, those types of places freak me out), wait for parking in a long line of cars all going to the same place, walk a gajillion miles from the parking lot to entrance of the place, hop on the back of a truck and get driven out to orchards that are too far for any self respecting toddler to walk to, all to spend five minutes picking apples and the rest of the time running after said toddler, trying to stop her from putting the worm-eaten apples off the ground in her mouth. Then giving up and buying a bag of employee-picked apples from the orchard shop, grabbing a jug of cider and some pumpkins and getting the hell out of Dodge.


We could drive to Bolton, Massachusetts to Nashoba Valley Winery and Orchard with a pre-made picnic lunch, park our car with relative ease, pre-pay for our bag of apples, grab our picking poles and walk to the orchard to pick our own fruit... Where the toddler will, in fact, try to eat worm-eaten apples off the ground, but location isn't going to change that.

Then, oh my dear lord, then we can run inside to the winery and pick a bottle from the large selection of Nashoba's locally made wine (they make pretty good beer and spirits, too), where they'll uncork it for you - if you're not like me and don't carry a corkscrew in your purse for this very occasion - maybe make our way over to the refrigerated case for some Mass. made cheese and then head outside to enjoy the spoils of our labor on Nashoba's expansive lawn.

Sounds heavenly doesn't it? Let me tell you, it is.

I almost don't want to share this gem with you because, admittedly, at the height of the season it gets very crowded (sorry, there will be crowds). But my husband and I love it and Nashoba is extremely family friendly - you can even bring your leashed dogs! Just remember to pick up after the pooches, because you don't want to ruin it for everyone else.

We bring a blanket and a soccer ball to kick around with our daughter and then we usually eat a very leisurely lunch and sip our wine - which is much better than you think it would be, for wine made in Massachusetts. We're not exactly the wine capital of the world, you know? And then, if the weather is really nice, we'll play some more ball or just chill on our blanket sharing the cheese and crackers and eating apples for the rest of the afternoon.

The view from their lawn is of the valley below and in fall that means blazes of red, orange and yellow. Very complimentary to the church steeples in the distance. And you don't have to just go in the fall. We go almost all year. We've been there to pick peaches (they're picking right now as a matter of fact) at the end of summer and we were there in the spring for my mother's day lunch. We haven't been in the winter yet, for the Christmas tree lighting. Maybe this year.

And I haven't even gotten into their gourmet restaurant, J's. Love the Sunday brunch but that is not toddler friendly.

I cannot say enough about this place so I'll just shut up now and let you decide for yourself. But if you go to Nashoba Valley Winery, let me know. I'll meet you there with my corkscrew!

Monday, August 27, 2007


BTS. Back to School.

Are you ready? As much as I enjoyed this summer break, our first as this was our first year having a school age child, I am ready for it to be over. The kids were great this summer, much better than I expected. There were less fights and less arguing then there was during school, but we're just ready to be back. The girls are getting bored and I think they miss their friends.

Yesterday we threw a end of summer - back to school BBQ with a few friends from school. It was nice. Everyone brought a dish, the kids played and the parents talked. I think it was the first time Husband actually got to sit down with other parents. We littered the back yard with school supplies and sent the kids on a scavenger hunt - which they loved! The weather cooperated. We were so worried with the reports of rain and thunderstorms, but in the end, aside fro ma few sprinkles right at the beginning, it was gorgeous. We couldn't have asked for a better day!

Today had us running and doing last minute school errands.

Haircuts for two - check
New soccer cleats - check
Lunch money for the first few days - check
Last visit with old friends who will not be at same school - check

All we need now is the backpack from L.L Bean to arrive. Note the time next to the delivery date? I hope not!

Oh and the school uniforms. We are still waiting on the short sleeve shirts for the formal uniform. The one's I ordered back in March. Only to pull out of the closet last week and realize that the collar is wrong. A call to customer service and not only did they allow me to return them for a full refund, they would send me the news one's right away. But then. They only had L and XL. For Einey - my XS first grader. And of course, this was the ONE time I didn't have a list of items I needed to order from ON. But wait, I can pick them up at a store near by. Oh wait, the closest store that has them in stock is Billerica? Um where is that? Luck was in my favor though as I was able to call the store and not only did they have the four shirts I needed in the color and size I needed, but they let me place my order over the phone. Hopefully I'll be lucky and will receive my order before school starts. If not, she can always wear the "summer" uniform. There is always that option.

2 more days and the summer break is over for us. Are you ready?

Runnin' from Dunkin'

Dunkin' Donuts has it out for me. I'm convinced.

First, my city's Stop & Shop got rid of its in-store Dunkin' Donuts.

I found this out when I went food shopping on Saturday and discovered that it was being replaced with a Starbucks.

Disappointment. Betrayal. Denial.

Then acceptance.

Fine. I'll get my Coffee Coolatas at the Dunkin' Donuts across the street, I thought. (Incidentally, am I the only person who still drinks Coffee Coolatas? I know they're sooooo 10 year ago.)

So after I had finished my food shopping - Coolata free - I drove over to the Dunkin' Donuts across the street, waited in the drive-thru line for about 10 minutes (while ice cream melted in my shopping bags)... and was unceremoniously informed that their Coolata machine was broken.


Then on Sunday, on the way back from our New England Mamas meet-up, I was again craving my Coolata fix.

There was soon a sign on the highway indicating that we could find a Dunkin' Donuts off the next exit.

Of course, the Dunkin' Donuts was about 5 miles off the highway - which seems like 20 miles when you have no clue where you're going.

But we finally made it there, and again waited in a long drive-thru line... only to be told that their Coolata machine was broken.

Double grrr. Methinks that if these Coolata machines are having a hard time keeping up with my demand, maybe Dunkin' Donuts should address the situation.

Anyway, I was still determined to Run on Dunkin' so I made my Mom take the next exit that had a Dunkin' Donuts sign.

This one was just off the highway, but there was no drive-thru. OK, I can handle that, I suppose.

So I got inside and ordered my medium Mocha Coolatta with skim milk. It's my "usual" at the Dunkin' Donuts near my house.

"Hot or cold?" the guy asked.

"Ummm... a Coolata," I said.

He kind of gave me a look like I hadn't really said that when I first ordered. Then he proceeded to start making me a small.

"Oh, I asked for a medium," I told him.

Another "look" from him. And then I noticed that his name tag said "Shift Supervisor." This guy was the supervisor!?

I couldn't really see him as he made the Coolata, but when he put it on the counter, I noticed right away that it wasn't made with skim milk. With skim milk, it's dark. What he gave me was not.


"I asked for skim milk," I said.

"This is milk," was his answer.

"I think that's whole milk. I only like it with skim." This is the truth. With whole milk or cream, it tastes gross to me. Trust me, I have been drinking these things for 10 years.

So we were back to square one. But he did finally get it right. Of course, what should have been a three minute excursion into Dunkin' Donuts became another ten minute ordeal.

Sorry, Dunkin' Donuts, their Frappuccinos may not measure up to your Coolatas, but I think I'll give Starbucks a chance next time I go food shopping.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ruminations While On The Road

Driving home today from meeting up with some of the other great women who write this blog, I noticed some of the swamp maples were already changing colours. Not many, but there were blazes and flashes of reds and yellows in the stunted little trees that grow alongside the Mass Pike. Fall is around the corner and I couldn't be happier. I live for sweaters and trousers, I pore over the L.L. Bean catalog, circling items I can't afford, reveling in the sheer preppiness of it all. Oh, oxford shirts, I love you so. Ankle-length corduroy skirt, you will be mine one day. I love fall. I do.

I once, foolishly, while married to husband #1, agreed to move to Atlanta with him. It was warm there and we'd just come off one of the worst winters since the blizzard of '78 (yes, I am old enough to remember that one - three weeks off school! Heaven.) and I'd had enough of snow and shoveling and power outages to last me a while.

So we packed my five year-old son, three cats and several suitcases into a Subaru XT Coupe and drove to Atlanta. I know. Believe me, I know. Do you have any idea how much fun it is to drive thru the Blue Ridge mountains at 3 a.m.? In the pouring rain? With three cats squalling in your ears and a semi barreling down on your ass? I'll just let you ruminate on that one for a moment.

All set?

OK. So we found an apartment just outside of Atlanta and it was nice. Warm, but nice. We moved in September, so the weather wasn't unbearable. A started school and enjoyed it. I was lonely, but tried to make friends (with a spectacular lack of success, I might add). Suddenly it was Thanksgiving. And it was still 80 outside. I grilled a turkey for the family. Grilled on the grill. I grew wistful. Where was the foliage? Where were the cornstalks and pumpkins and gourds? Where was the bittersweet, always the last glow among the greying bushes and trees? It wasn't there. What passed for foliage in Georgia was pathetic. It went from green, to greenish-yellow, to brown. That was it. Whoopie.

Winter rolled around. They canceled school because it was too cold. The temperature? 12. Above zero. Oh, how I laughed. We had half an inch of snow and the entire state lost their collective minds. Everything shut down. Grocery stores, gas stations, everything. I stood outside the Publix with my mouth agape as I watched the manager rushing people out of the store so they could make it home before the worst of the snow.

Then came spring. Spring lasts about five minutes in Atlanta. It's a gorgeous five minutes, full of blossoms and smells and a fresh breeze. It's like a child playing dress-up; it puts on all of its finery at once and just as quickly abandons it. Then you're in to the long, hard slog that is summer in the south.

It gets humid up here in New England and I hate it - I'm the first to admit that I become a big, whiny cry-baby when it's humid. (Like it was yesterday. Oh, how I griped.) Atlanta humidity makes New England's look positively wussy. The bugs. *shudder* The bugs still give me nightmares.
That's a cicada. They have them by the thousands down there. They swarm. They crunch when you drive, or, god forbid, step on them. *gag*

This little beauty is a Palmetto bug. They are huge. They can crawl under just about anything, including the slider that was on our back deck. One day, when I was about 8 months pregnant with O, I found one in the shower. With me. Imagine, if you will, one wet, hugely pregnant woman, leaping about the bathroom, shrieking her head off, shampoo flying in all directions as she desperately tried to find something, anything, with which to kill the bug. It's a wonder my neighbours didn't call the cops for fear I was being murdered.

I didn't really like Atlanta. Because a.) I don't like bugs and b.) I don't like heat and those are two things that are in abundance down there. But what really got me was the lack of seasons.

There's a comfort in the predictability of the seasons up here. You know you have to get thru a possibly brutal winter in order to get to the long, slow, unfolding kiss of spring. Spring slowly turns to summer, teasing you at first with a warm day here and there, before it finally lets loose with a few precious weeks of glorious sun, brilliantly blue skies and warm days, days when you can smell the fields being hayed, when an ice cream melts at the perfect rate and you live to hear the crack of the bat, maybe worship at the Church Of Fenway. You know some of July and most of August will have long, humid days, when all you can do is sprawl under a tree or lie in front of a fan and dream of snow.

And then it's fall. Fall in all its glory of reds and yellows, creating a patchwork of colour that rolls over the hills and valleys, so gorgeous it catches at my throat. I realize just how much I love it here. I complain (it's the local pastime) about the weather and the roads and the drivers, but I feel at home here like I've never felt anywhere before. These hills are like an eiderdown, comfortable and safe, and I know around the next curve there will be a white, wooden, steepled church or a common with beautiful old homes or an old mill now housing a bookshop and an antique store. These roads and hills are as familiar as an old coat, as welcoming as an old friend. When people ask where I'm from, I'm always proud to say I'm from New England.
photo: VT Dept. of Tourism

Friday, August 24, 2007

New VerMOMster in Town

As I sit here pondering how I might introduce myself to you, my 8-month-old daughter, Georgia, (that's her over there) sleeps surrounded by pillows on our bed. It is suddenly muggy and warm again after an early cool spell in central Vermont where we live and I have stripped her down to a t-shirt and her diaper. In typical fashion she babbled herself to sleep within minutes having skipped her mid-morning nap, the fan humming and children’s voices rising up from the street level of our building. Below us local kids delight in their maple creemees from the 19th century general store. The go-to Vermont cool treat, I imagine that some of the last creemees of summer are being enjoyed downstairs; today’s warmth a reminder that summer in Vermont is fleeting, you have to catch as catch can. School, if it has not begun already, on the horizon.

Along the highway—Interstate 89—the trees across the expanse of mountains, if you take the time to notice, have already begun to redden. Dulling to a muted greenish-brown, they merely hint at the transformation that will, in but a matter of weeks, turn the trees vivid again, in multiple shades now, attracting people from around the world to marvel at their oomph.

As I sit down to introduce myself my husband sends me emails indicating that there are dates I ought to write in my book. A new faculty hire at a local private college, he is amping up for his first semester as a “real” professor. New hire picnics, teas, and lectures abound. Having earned his PhD in Mathematics in the spring of this year, it is his diligence and intelligence that has paid off for our family.

For the last 4 to 5 months we have lived off our savings (and no small donation from Alex’s family) so that we could be with our daughter as she went through and recovered from surgery to repair several holes in her heart shortly after Alex received his diploma. Together we decided that I will continue to stay home with Georgia. Though it is true that Georgia, who has
Down syndrome, has no shortage of therapists to meet with each week, it is not because of this that we reached our decision.

Instead it is that Alex’s position is but a year-long sabbatical replacement and we do not know where the winds will take us when the money (and health insurance) run out in May. Though it might make sense to be a two-income family for that exact reason, the chances of Alex finding suitable employ in the borders of Vermont beyond this year are depressingly slim (though fingers crossed would be a nice gesture). Though I have bipped my way through my fair share of jobs over the years the thought of starting another position that I know I will likely and soon-ly leave is daunting. Not to mention the job market in Vermont, which to be honest is better comparatively in the central region of the state where we currently live, than in the southern portion where I have also laid my head for a spell.

All that is to say nothing of the waiting lists in daycares. I don’t know if I was warned about such things, and if I had, I wasn’t listening. I played with the idea of no less than three jobs seriously just prior to and once we arrived in VT this past spring, but the lack of available space in—not to mention the cost of—daycare was prohibitive.

And let me just come right out and say that having your nearly 6-month-old baby go under the knife for open heart surgery just six weeks after a serious 8 days in the hospital bout with RSV will also put a crimp in your independent-minded, I’m-gonna’-work-and-the-baby’s-going-to-be-better-for-it-just-you-wait-and-see mama style as well. Suddenly germs aren’t just those invisible creatures you see cartoon-ized as grumbling
green globs of mucous advertising for cough syrup on TV and in the pages of parenting magazines. Suddenly you understand what it means for your child to be truly prone to illness.

I am not knocking daycare, there will likely come a day when it is right again for us, I am pretty sure. It’s just suddenly, one day I was more vulnerable. With that vulnerability came fear that I am learning to overcome so as not to be too overly protective of my child.

I would be out and out lying if I did
not tell you that for a long time—years—I have wanted to be a stay-at-home-mama. This, perhaps, since we’re being honest, may in small part be due to the fact that I have no tolerance for jobs. At least certain ones. You know, like the ones I tend to take. In truth, however, I have always wanted a child and now that I have one, I want to be there with her for as long as possible. It is for this reason I am most grateful that we were able to make the decision for me to stay home.

At least until we run out of money, or I die of sheer boredom. Which ever happens first. Because let’s face it, you can only watch so many episodes of
A Baby Story, there are only so many times you can sing the canon of children’s songs, The Carrot Seed is a brilliant story (more on that at a later date), but by it’s 1 millionth read-through it gets a little predictable.

So there it is. For now, lest I bore you right out of this website and have my newly earned contributor privileges taken away (which I am thankful for and dorkily quite proud of, by the way), that is who I am. Tricia: a week from my 31st birthday, a first time mom to a little girl who has Down syndrome, the wife of a professor (a mathematics professor no less!), a stay-at-home-mom, a wannabee writer, an amateur photographer, a shower singer, a Vermonter—whether we end up staying here or not, it’s something deep inside. The old-timers might tell you you’re not a real Vermonter until your family has been here for fifteen generations or somesuch thing. And my family lineage, alas, starts with us—my daughter, like myself, born in Connecticut, my husband, New Hampshire. But there you have it, Vermonters three. Our chosen home. Whether we have a choice in the future or not.

Hi. If you want, you can read more about me

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Low Tide in Dumpsterville

The following Public Service Announcement is brought to you by the still-vacationing Cape Buffalo clan.

Though you may fanatically rinse all beach toys before they go back into the carrier and trunk of your car in the hot summer sun, you are screwed beyond hope when you don't carefully check the kids' new stash of beach treasures for live shellfish.

Last week we down the Cape when we met Kiddo's super BFF in Chatham for a playdate. I spun through the Dunkins Drive Thru for milk and cookies and one of them (they wouldn't confess which one- clever little buggers) spilled milk all over the back seat. No problem, I said, that's why I have leather seats. The mess cleaned up easily and I thought nothing of it.

Next day, I started to smell something moderately funky in the general area of the back seat. "Great", I thought "the milk must have gotten into the carpeting- it will stop stinking in a few days." As the day wore on, however I knew what I was smelling wasn't milk. It was like an acrid cross between baby vomit and dumpster juice and it was getting worse.

I left the back windows open overnight and discovered the next morning that my car was full of flies. That's when I turned my attention to the trunk. Did something fall out of a bag last time I went shopping? By now, that something would have to be a T-Bone, carton of buttermilk, and cracked jar of pickled herring, all in the same bag to achieve this particular level of stank.

I took out the beach toys, folding chairs, emergency blankets, and other assorted crap- all of which had been steeped in l'eau de ass for three or four days. I peeled back the floor mat and looked around in the spare tire region. Nothing down there.

Then I remembered the time I was coming home for Christmas break college with all my dirty laundry and my hamster who got loose from his box and lived in my car for the better part of 6 months. Shut up, I'm serious. I left him food and water at regular intervals and finally found him when the weather got warm and he was sick of being in the hot car. Once I was able to capture him, I set him free because I figured he'd never be happy living in a cage after having free reign of my exhaust manifold for that long. I tell you this only because after I checked my trunk for rotting food, I was sure something had crawled into the pipes and died.

While I examined the contents of my car (which were now strewn across the driveway), I figured I'd put some things back in the garage. I picked up the mesh beach toy bag and then I knew. At the bottom of the bag were several sets of slipper shells that appeared to have been neatly stacked upon one another when placed into the bag alive. And who, in death, had come to emit the stankiest stank ever achieved by such little limpets.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Good Doctor

Three days ago, the Globe had a headline that brought me both relief and sadness.

Cape doctor will face no charge.

I was relieved because she didn't deserve to be charged, and the grand jury agreed. I was filled with sadness because the haunted, bruised face in the photograph is the face of a woman who has taken a life. And had I been in her position, I may have done the exact same thing.

I couldn't help having a feeling of sickly triumph that for once, just once, the victim survived, and the abuser lay dead. My head tells me this is morbid, and wrong, but my heart rejoices. She survived. She lives.

My heart goes out to her. I hope she is able to heal herself, the way she has healed so many others. I hope she will give herself the respect and care she gives to her patients. I hope she knows she deserves that respect and care. I hope she knows she didn't deserve the abuse she suffered for twenty years. No one ever, ever does.

How many of us have ever been in absolute terror of our lives? Too many, I have to tell you. I know, because I have spoken with some of them. Women and men, in straight and gay relationships. From all walks of life. Lawyers, homemakers, artists, business people, teachers, students, ministers, social workers. And some poor souls whose abusers were police officers.

While I lived in Philadelphia, I worked as a volunteer as a hot-line counselor for victims of abuse. Specifically, domestic and substance abuse. Over the course of five years, I spoke with hundreds of women while working a 24-hour hot-line. I was part of a truly amazing group of dedicated women. We went through some pretty heavy training before we were left on our own to try to do what we could to help women help themselves. Sometimes by just being an ear for frustration, sometimes by finding short term solutions to immediately dangerous situations.

The cycle starts almost invisibly. For a while things are glorious. Then tension begins, and builds, and then there is a harsh word, an insult. Then there is a gracious apology, tears, remorse. You forgive and forget, mostly. Until the next time it happens. This time, after the tears and apologies, you think, that was pretty bad, but it's over. I'm so glad it's over, you think. Maybe I shouldn't have...maybe I should have...and you begin to doubt yourself.

Then it happens again. And again. Then one day, in place of an insult, a threat. Then the next time, perhaps with the threat, something breaks. A vase, or a favorite knick knack. The next time, a slap in the face. Each time, you see, is rehearsal for the next. How far can it go? Eventually, the things that get broken are limbs. Finally, the person who dies is the victim.

So I would answer the phone on my shift and listen. Sometimes I would have to press a little. The statement “I fell down the stairs” when probed would eventually become “I was pushed”. Sometimes, there was no time to do anything but work out quickly a safe place the woman could go to wait with her children by a phone until a safe house worker could pick them up. Sometimes they would wait in hospitals, or churches, even convenience stores. I shake as I remember these women's voices and stories. Because I know that only luck divides us.

Whenever my 6 hour shift was over, I would close my D-Ring binder, checked through my stack of call sheets to make sure all the information was there, took a deep breath or so, and felt like the luckiest woman on earth. I had a wonderful relationship. I had a roof over my head. There were no stalkers, no madmen beating down the door, no reason for me to be constantly aware of where the exits were in the house. I didn't need a safety bag waiting in a quiet cupboard by the door, or in the trunk of my car.

Every year, the volunteers would gather for a supper, and we would listen to women speak who had come out on the other side of abusive relationships. Our tears were of sorrow and gratitude and furious anger. There were tears of forgiveness. There were tears upon reaching the point where they could look in the mirror at themselves and be proud of what they saw. Strong, independent, resourceful, fragile, flawed, wondrous, phenomenal women.


Some additional resources for anyone out there who may need a hand. (including how to clear your browser). And please, if any one has more links, add them.

Jane Doe Inc.
Massachusetts Domestic Violence and Legal Resources
Transition House
Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project
American Bar Association Domestic Violence Safety Tips
Brockton Police Department

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dirty Water

I’ll never forget the moment I became a New Englander. It was October 28, 2004. I know it was around lunchtime because I was buying a salad when I heard The Standells for the first time:

I'm gonna tell you a story
I'm gonna tell you about my town
I'm gonna tell you a big bad story, baby
Aww, it's all about my town

It was, of course, the day after the Sox had won the World Series. I’m not a baseball fan (actually, I’m not a fan of any sport) but my husband and I couldn’t help but watch the game on the tiny TV in our guest room and cheer on the local team. I may have shed a tear when the game ended and the neighbors on our sleepy Newton street went outside to celebrate, but at the time I thought it was the pregnancy hormones taking over.

We went outside too, and I took a blurry picture of the blood-red lunar eclipse.

Yeah, down by the river
Down by the banks of the river Charles
(Aw, that's what's happenin' baby)
That's where you'll find me
Along with lovers, fuggers, and thieves
(Aw, but they're cool people)

My newfound affection had very little to do with curses being broken. By then we had been living here a little over two years, but we had spent a lot of that time discussing where in the world we would end up living - for real. Vienna? Miami? London? Rio? What city would allow us to live the life we wanted?

Turns out we were already there.

Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston, you're my home
(Oh, you're the Number One place)
Frustrated women
(I mean they're frustrated)

At first, I thought this town was boring and was frustrated because it wasn’t welcoming. There's no street grid, so it takes years to learn your way around. Driving a Honda Civic in 10 inches of snow is not fun. I was a frustrated woman, indeed.

Until I got AWD and navigation, that is.

Have to be in by twelve o'clock
(Oh, that's a shame)
But I'm wishin' and a-hopin, oh
That just once those doors weren't locked
(I like to save time for my baby to walk around)
Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston, you're my home (oh, yeah)

We had many hungry nights when we first moved here. I was used to eating dinner after 9 pm, and I never, ever went to a restaurant before 10 pm. Have you been in Boston after 10:30? Ghost town!

Eventually, we adjusted our dining schedule. Now I eat at 6 pm (sometimes 7!) like a real New Englander.

Because I love that dirty water
Oh, oh, Boston
You're my home (oh, yeah)

But you know, this town has a way of growing on you. We love going for walks on the Charles River Esplanade (always keeping an eye out for thieves). I love cannolli, and therefore the North End. I’ve been on a duck tour, and it was corny and all sorts of awesome.

Well, I love that dirty water
(I love it, baby)

Canoeing to the playground in Auburndale park. The Barking Crab. Fenway Park. Nantucket. Tanglewood. MassMoCa.

I love that dirty water
(I love Baw-stun)

I don’t have a Boston accent, but my son says “cah” and “beah” instead of “car” and “bear.”


I love that dirty water
(Have you heard about the Strangler)

I love the history and the scenery that has inspired countless artists: Walden Pond, Emily Dickinson, The House of the Seven Gables, Norman Rockwell.

I love that dirty water
(I'm the man, I'm the man)

I will never love the snow, but it makes me appreciate our gorgeous summers even more.

I love that dirty water
I love that dirty water
(Come on, come on)

I even love our simple black and beige colonial with its red door. It's just a rectangular box with a gable roof, the kind of house a child would draw. It screams New England. It's home.

Jeff Foxworthy on New England

Forget Rednecks... here's what Jeff Foxworthy has to say on New Englanders:
  • If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 36 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping it will swim by, you might live in New England.

  • If you're proud that your region makes the national news 96 nights each year because Mt. Washington is the coldest spot in the nation, and Boston gets more snow than any other majority in the US, you live in New England.

  • If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you live in New England.

  • If you instinctively walk like a penguin for six months out of the year, you live in New England.

  • If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance, and they don't work there, you live in New England.

  • If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in New England.

  • If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you live in New England.


  • "Vacation" means going anywhere south of New York City for the weekend.

  • You measure distance in hours.

  • You know several people who have hit a deer more than once.

  • You have switched from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day, and back again.

  • You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching.

  • You install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked.

  • You carry jumper cables in your car and your girlfriend/wife knows how to use them.

  • You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

  • Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.

  • You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction .

  • Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a deer next to your blue spruce.

  • "Down South" to you means Philadelphia.

  • Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new shed.

  • Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost.

  • You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.

  • You find 10 degrees "a little chilly."

  • You actually understand these jokes, and forward them to all your New England friends.

Busy Much??? Uhhh.... Not Yet.

Hi There! Well, I intended to post here about once a week or so. But now it's been at least 2 weeks since I've last signed in.

I really don't feel that busy, though. But on paper, I suppose it looks like I am:

I work 30 hours/week in the office.

I consult on 1 - 3 Wine Tasting Parties with The Traveling Vineyard per month.

I'm signed on to tutor middle and high school students this coming school year in all things English-related.

I edit the quarterly sbaMass newsletter and just emailed a letter of intent to the Board expressing my interest in helping to further develop their adult clinic in any way that I can.

Soooo - potentially, I could be very busy (anyone interested in hosting a wine party? They're a ton of fun! I'll travel to almost anywhere in New England). But for now I mostly sit and wait. For vacation. Which is coming very soon.

But even that isn't going to be very stress-free, considering it involves an 8+ hour car trip with our energetic 4- year old.

Ugh! Waiting to be stressed-out busy. And it's all my own doing! Will I ever learn?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Elizabeth Stone House

Did you read last Friday's Boston Globe story about the fire at the Elizabeth Stone House?

To think that these women and children had to be traumatized once again - that they were once again left with nothing - made me want to help.

I belong to a mother's group in my town, and we received an email from one of the managers requesting help. Maybe you want to help too:

One of the shelter managers suggested gift cards which will help these women purchase basic necessities if/when they are placed in other temporary shelters. Specifically, she recommended Target, Stop & Shop or other major grocery stores. Anything--even $25--will help.

If you are able, please send donations to :
The Elizabeth Stone House
attn: Rebecca Allen, Senior Manager
PO Box 3000039
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Monday, August 13, 2007

New England Mamas recommend - The Discovery Museums in Acton, MA

I don't know why it took me so long to get there, but my daughter and I finally made it to the Discovery Museums in Acton, MA. And yes, I am kicking myself for not going sooner because my daughter had the best time EVAH.

In case you've never been, the Discovery Museums (from their website) "are two separate but complementary museums filled with exciting, interactive exhibits for children of all ages using focused spaces and hands-on activities inviting exploration and discovery. "

The Children's Discovery Museum, housed in a converted Victorian, is in fact room after ro
om of these interactive learning exhibits, each with its own theme. For example: The Safari Room (complete with "wild" animals of the stuffed variety and climbing nets), The Water Room (waterproof smocks are provided so kids can splash in the large tub with abandon), The Ball Room (think of the game mousetrap when it's completed and that's a bit like the Ball Room), and my daughter's favorite, Bessie's Play Diner (booths with jukeboxes, a play kitchen with a diner's counter, play food and cookware).

My daughter in the water room. I forgot my camera so I had to resort to using my camera phone.

The entire third floor is the S.S. Discover (a "nautical adventure", Ahoy!). Oh, and there's a Rainbow Room as well, which my daughter enjoyed because it had a slide, but is not at all like this place. Bummer for me, bonus for my kid.

I was there with my in-laws, my husband's nephews (ages 4 and 8) and my daughter (not quite 2 and 1/2). The Children's Discovery Museum was perfect for the 2 and 4 year old but it was far too young for an 8 year old boy. He would have been better off at the Science Discovery Museum, but since this was our first visit we didn't know much about it and didn't leave enough time to visit it.

A word of caution if you have kids that different in age: You have to pay for the Children's Museum and the Science Museum separately. And you need to leave a lot of time to do both (we spent about 2 and 1/2 hours in the Children's Museum). A better bet would be if one parent could go with one kid to one museum and the other parent go with the other kid. That would save time and greatly cut down on any over-stimulated tantrums.

If you're thinking of going at a time that will run you into lunch, there is no indoor eating facility so you'll have to go out to get a meal or bring your own (there are a few tables outside for eating al fresco on nice days) but your hand stamp grants you access to whichever museum you paid for for the entire day.

(There's a McDonald's right down the street. Just a heads up.)

I have a feeling we'll be going back very soon.
The Discovery Museums are incredibly easy to get to from both the Boston area and 495. If this directionally challenged woman can get there, anyone can. If we lived a bit closer I'd purchase a family Membership, but even though it was easy to get to from my home outside of Worcester it still took about 40 minutes to get there. Including one stop at Dunkin Donuts. Because, really, if a place is that fascinating for infants, toddlers and preschoolers then you can imagine a parent needs a little caffeine before going in.

Pick 'Em While They're Hot

Just a quick recommendation.

My children and I picked a VAT of blueberries yesterday at Dzen (pronounced "zen") Blueberry Farm in S. Windsor, Connecticut. The bushes are literally bursting with berries, even though it's now considered the tail end of the season.

If you're looking for a fun activity that's quintessentially New England in flavor, consider hitting a local farm and picking blueberries (or whatever!) to your heart's content.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Orbiting the Evil Empire

No matter how much many of us talk about Boston and Providence as our big hubs, we all know that it is out there! A major economic and cultural center that is not only a "must see" location in and of itself, but blocks the highways that we New England Mamas need to traverse if we want to get to Sesame Street Place, Washington DC, or the Jersey Shore. Yes, I am talking about the Big Apple, New York City.

I have to admit that I have slightly mixed loyalties when I lock arms with my fellow New Englanders to glare south. Not only did I live in Hoboken, New Jersey for two years while working in Manhattan, but my husband lived in and around "The City" for almost 30 years, and he still proudly calls himself a New Yorker. (In fact, he was joyfully cavorting around the house earlier today yelling something about "Only 4 games out! And at least two-and-a-half up!" for some baseball-related events that I am sure were less happily received by most of my neighbors.) But neither of our New York associations make driving through the City seem any more enticing.

My friend and her husband generously invited my family to spend the week with them in Ocean City, New Jersey. Unfortunately, my husband couldn't make the trip. I figured it would be no problem for me to take the boys by myself. However, as the trip got closer, I began to feel like I needed to breathe into a paper bag every time I thought about the drive. Being stuck in a car with a 3.5 year old and a 13 month old isn't fun at the best of times, and everyone I knew said the Jersey Shore traffic was simply a nightmare. It looked like the 7 hour drive would really be a 10+ hour drive.

Due to my complete laziness shear brilliance, we ended up leaving much later than expected. Originally I had wanted to leave at 6 am (that makes me laugh just to write it), however, that definitely didn't happen. In fact once 9 am had rolled around, I figured it was better to wait until the afternoon anyhow. We ended up leaving at around 3:15 pm. Other than some traffic delays getting onto I-84 (if my FastPass had been working it would have been no problem), there was basically no traffic on my trip. We stopped for an hour for dinner. The whole trip took us 8 hours total, inclusive of the stop. The boys slept through most of it since I wouldn't let them nap before we left.

Tonight when I am welcomed back into the arms of my fellow New Englanders as I go out with the moms from my playgroup, my first toast will be to Newark Airport. Because they overbook their airspace, there were plenty of airplanes coming and going when we drove through. The boys got a good half hour out of talking about the different airplanes and their "sizes".

Thursday, August 9, 2007

White Knuckles, Knotted Shoulders

My daughter Olivia has type 1 diabetes. She's had it for nearly 10 years and for 8 of those 10 years, we've made the drive in to Boston so that she can be seen four times a year at Joslin. It's one of the leading diabetes centers in the country and they take top notch care of her and her diabetes.

But, and there is a big but (and not just mine), the drive in, from the hinterlands of western Massachusetts, is most decidedly Not Fun. It's all smooth sailing until you hit the illustrious 95/128 interchange on the Mass Pike. That's when all hell breaks loose. Invariably, some moron, usually from out of state *coughNewYorkcough* gets in the Fast Lane when they don't have a Fast Lane tag. There's usually a couple of confused tractor trailers trying to figure out if they need to go north or south. And me, cursing 'em all out, like the good little Masshole that I am.

Then there is the garage. Any of you familiar with the Pilgrim Street Parking garage in the Longwood area? It's over there behind Children's and Beth Isreal. Turns are so tight that every ramp has dozens and dozens of bumper scrapes on it. The up and down ramps are about six inches apart, so you need to have quick reflexes and new brake pads when you use this place. I don't know how people with honking SUVs manage - I have all I can do to get my little Honda Accord thru there unscathed. The rates are ridiculous, even for Boston and Joslin no longer validates parking tickets. Between the tolls, the gas, lunch and parking, it's easily a $60 day. Olivia's currently involved in a study there, so we get free parking (yay!), but once that's over, we'll be taking the T in again. Much easier. And I don't have to navigate the car-killing potholes that pop up along Route 9 in Wellesely and Chestnut Hill. What's up with those things? Rich suburbs like that and you can't keep the potholes filled? Or is that your way of saying "Come, shop at the Atrium, wander thru Chestnut Hill Mall, but don't even THINK about going anywhere else or your chassis is ours. Suckahs!"

I'm glad to be back out here in the Happy Valley, behind the Tofu Curtain, but now I need a massage. And a drink. Thank all the little fishes I don't have to do that again for another three months.

Better than Valium

You know that phenomenon where you learn a word and then start to see and hear it everywhere you go?

This summer, that word has been "camp", or specifically, "day camp". While I, of course, know what this term means, now that I have a six-year old, camps seem to be everywhere I turn.

Has it always been this way or is this a new trend? In our area, there are general camps, as well as, specialized camps. If you have a soccer, dance, gymnastics, art, music or nature lover, there is a camp that fits. There is even a sort of church camp called “Vacation Bible School” which sounds about as fun as a root canal but is supposed to be fun for the kids.

I have also learned that your kids can go to camp while on vacation. I had always thought that “vacation” was synonymous with “‘fill up on family togetherness, even if you are ready to kill each other by week’s end”. So, I was a bit skeptical about how “camp” and “vacation” could co-mingle successfully. Nevertheless, I booked a week’s vacation at Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont which features camps for kids as young as three up to the age of 17.

Smuggler’s Notch bills itself as “America’s Family Resort”. In many of the brochures, families are seen happily romping around the pools or walking the trails. In reality, between the house of 10 and 4, most school-aged kids are in camp. I do not what percentage of Smuggs’ kids attend camp, but you only need to look around when camp is in session to realize that the majority of kids are not with their parents.

How did my kids like this arrangement? My oldest daughter, who is six, LOVED camp. She made a “best friend” (her words), hugged her counselors, participated in every activity, and had to be convinced to take a few days off for “family time” (she attended camp four days of seven).

My four-year-old enjoyed camp too, but the day was pretty long for her. If her big sister wasn’t so enamored of camp, I’m not sure she would’ve even attended; she went for only three days out of seven.

Our son, who is only two, was too young for camp, although the resort also has a fully staffed daycare for the youngest kids. However, seeing as he doesn’t attend daycare at home, I wasn’t about to try it on vacation.

I am not without feelings of guilt about this whole camp thing, though. I subscribe to the “vacation is about family togetherness” motto, and so I felt a little “pang” each time I dropped off a daughter. Was I being selfish?

And then we returned home from Vermont, and I felt something new. I felt relaxed.

For once, I had also had a vacation.

Dog Days of Summer

I don't know about you, but when August rolls around, I'm seriously ready for a nap.

Why is it that every year I cram so much activity into the month of July? No day is spared. Come July 1st, my family hits the ground running: we've got out of town guests and summer camps and play dates and vacations and a seemingly endless stream of activities that leaves us all breathless.

This year, I discovered the calendar had progressed to August only by accident. "You're calling to wish me a happy birthday? But my birthday's not until August. It is August? Oh. Right."

My weeds have never been happier.

Neither have my children.

Looking at them now through the lens of August, I see that they've grown taller, too (though admittedly, not nearly as tall as my weeds). Their blonde hair glistens with streaks of sun, and if you look closely, you can see the remnants of melting icecream cones and sticky-sweet watermelon juice on their clothes.

Sweet indeed.

On these long, lazy days of August, I plan to do a whole lot of nothing while soaking in a whole lot of everything: the symphony of birds in the early dawn; heaping bowls of fresh Connecticut blueberries; barbecue grills and hot, steaming corn on the cob. I will linger on Rhode Island beaches as the sun sinks on the horizon, savoring the salty air and the rhythmic crash of waves.

And though I won't touch my weed garden (why bother at this point?), I will draw my family close, and together we will sit silent and still, gazing upwards to admire the stars.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Do I have a meet-up idea for you!

I'm a Pottery Barn affiliate (I have PB ads on my blog occasionally) and today I got email from PB about a FREE decorating class they're offering. Yes, that would be FREE. My all time favorite word.

The class will be Sunday, August 19. The ad says "Join us for a complementary class and learn tips on organizing and adding style to your workspace." Just what I need as my workspace is disorganized and messy! Hey, I share it with two teenagers. I'm not the worst of the slobs in our house.

Anyhow, I want to call and sign up, and I need a show of hands to see who else wants to go. My closest Pottery Barn is at the Atrium in Chestnut Hill. But according to the web site, there are more in the general New England area. If you can't make it to Chestnut Hill, maybe you can make it to one of these stores and we can compare notes.

So who is up for a decorating challange? And just to make sure you're up it, post a photo of your workspace so we can see who needs the most help. I bet I win!

Ready for Something Sweet?

My family and I recently had the pleasure of visiting a local farm for our annual blueberry picking extravaganza. Oh. My. Goodness. There isn't many things better than being outside in the summer sun, picking and eating blueberries. And to watch my 3 little kids chowing down the sweet treats was even sweeter!

The farm we now flock to every summer is March Farms in in Bethlehem, CT. Not only do they have wonderful fruit for the picking every year, but they also have great vegetables, baked goods, spices (the basil is a must have!), dressings and syrups that'll knock your tastebuds out! Visitors can also enjoy a new playscape next to the blueberry bushes, a barnyard of animals to pet and hayrides come fall. And don't forget Pumpkin picking! It's a special place that my hubby and I look forward to visiting each year with our children.

We left March Farms with a big boatful of fresh vegetables and too many blueberries! I've enjoyed baking all sorts of wonderful desserts this week - want a slice of my first ever blueberry pie?

If you are ever in Western CT, look up March Farms. It's a delicious place to visit!

If Those Walls Could Talk

Three years ago this month, my husband and I purchased our first house.

We were all kinds of exited.

Sure, it was just a small, three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom ranch, with no garage, and begging for some major updating. But it was ours. We owned that mother.

We had high hopes for our little ranch. It had potential. It had spunk and personality.

So we started making plans. We would renovate the kitchen top-to-bottom (which hadn't been done since the 70s). We would add a garage - or at least a carport. We would put in replacement windows. We would make the half bathroom into a full. The thought of adding yet another full bathroom on to our bedroom even crossed our minds (the words "master suite" sounded so nice).

But first, we would paint the interior. It would be something fun for us to do together. As a couple. A couple who would be getting married in three months.

We would go full steam ahead!

Well, our honeymoon rolled around three months later, and guess what? We hadn't made much progress.

"Not much" meaning "not one iota."

So we used some of our wedding money to hire painters, and when we came back from our honeymoon, ladies and gentlemen, we had progress.

Now that we had gotten past square one (we were at square two?), surely tackling the rest of the house plans would come easily, right?

Well, in a word... no.

And little by little we started to get less and less excited about our piece of "potential." Its personality started to wear thin on us, too.

So much for spunk.

Instead of thinking about the progress we could make on our house, we were already planning for our next house.

Throughout our first winter there, every time I had to go outside and shovel snow off the car before work, I would declare that my next house would have a garage.

When summer rolled around, my husband would prepare himself every morning for his sprinkler dance - making sure that every part of the lawn was getting water, while trying to dodge the rotating spray.

And, of course, there were the ceiling fans in the summer, which simply pushed around the damp, muggy air.

That's it, we vowed. Our next house would absolutely, positively, without a doubt have to have three things - a two-car attached garage with an automatic door opener. an in-ground sprinkler system and central air.

And so last year at this time, when we purchased our second house together (the Dream House), you better believe that we checked those three things off our list.

And said good-bye to our devoid-of-all-personality ranch.

Well, you know the saying, "Revenge is a dish best served cold?"

Someone must have given that ranch the memo.

Because it's now been exactly a year since we've moved into the Dream House. And guess which three things in the Dream House have decided to fail on us - all within the same week?

That's right.

The automatic garage door opener? Busted.

The central air? Leaking.

The in-ground sprinklers? Broken.

Well played, little ranch, well played. I guess you do have some spunk in you yet.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Pay now or pay later

I subscribe to an educational news feed that sends me stories from all over the world. In today's feed, there was an article about a failed initiative in Scotland as well as notes on programs from California, New Jersey, and the bus full of kids who escaped from the Minneapolis bridge collapse, just to name a few. What struck me about today's brief is that three of the articles related directly to Massachusetts. One reported that the residents of Bridgewater voted to fund their schools and cut from the budgets of other programs another praised a program for aspiring engineers. I skimmed the first two but I paid close attention to the third: Hub weighs dorm for 'couch surfers.'

Nearly 50,000 children of school age in Massachusetts are homeless. About 10% of those kids are teens who leave home to escape abuse or as a result of their own emotional and addiction issues. Now, school leaders are considering adding a residential program to an alternative high school in Roxbury.

There aren't many people who wouldn't be moved by the stories of the kids profiled in the article, many of whom live in extreme poverty and spend their nights couch surfing:

"In some ways, a school doesn't have any business getting into housing. But what some of these kids may need most is a consistent home where there is order and people around who they can trust and who have their act together," said DeWitt Jones, chairman of the board of trustees for Boston Day and Evening.

Shaquillia Meadows, 16, who spent the last school year bouncing among friends' homes, sleeping on air mattresses, said she would benefit from a residential program at the school, where she is a sophomore.

"I felt like dropping out, but, honestly, I don't want to end up like my mother," said Meadows, who wants to study forensics in college. "If I had somewhere to go home to and eat and shower and rest my head, I would be like, 'Ok, now I could finish school.' "

As Dickensian as some may perceive boarding schools to be, I've spent time in residential schools and that are, for some kids, the first time they've been in a stable environment with a routine and predictable rules and boundaries. Sure, the lure of the street is powerful and these kids arrive with more baggage than they can carry but for these kids, the presence of one steady, charismatic adult can change them forever.

"...some educators and advocates for the homeless say the program could be risky for the school because it might distract administrators from their primary mission, education, as they take up the role of a social service agency." Of course the program will be risky. Of course it will. But I'm not sure a well-run residential program is any riskier than a teenager living on the street. Funding for education is always controversial. I happen to believe that the best programs aren't always the most heavily funded and that towns, such as Bridgewater, need to decide where their priorities lie when writing budgets.

But when you take into account all the risks that homeless teens face- pregnancy, addiction, incarceration, dropping out of school- and weigh them against the expense of a program that has the potential to provide a chance to right the ship. I vote for the ship.

Let's hear it for Alex!

Congratulations to our own Alex Elliot on her extremely successful appearance on the Morning Show with Mike and Juliet show today!

Alex was contacted to be a guest on the show because of a post she wrote on NYC hospitals (as well as what Massachusetts hospitals tried to do in the past) who were banning free samples of formula from the care packages that new moms took home after delivering their babies. If you have not done so, please go check it out.

Alex, who is pro-breastfeeding but could not breastfeed her children without heavily supplementing due to medical reasons, did a great job of getting to the heart of the matter in her post, stating that mothers are smart enough to make their own decisions as to use the free formula or not.

Congratulations, Alex! I hope I can speak for everyone when I say we're really proud of you!