Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Our Magical Creek

Can you hear it?

My windows are open and the birds are chirping and singing and are oh, so very busy. We back up to woods and a creek and the birds love it. Under our deck it's like a bird hotel, there are four bird nests, two look like robins nests and the other two look like dove nests. We found a cardinal nest in the bush next to the deck yesterday. A couple of hawks have built a nest high up in the trees and you can see the babies now if you look carefully through the leaves. Every once in a while you can hear their screeching calls. A couple of ducks can be heard quacking as they swim up and down the creek. The other day, Chris had closed our windows. I asked if he was cold and he said, "No, it's just that the birds are too noisy first thing in the morning."

Can you see it?

The canopy of leaves on the trees have filled-in our backyard. New growth is coming in on the bushes, the early spring blossoms have fallen and given way to new leaves while late spring blooms are just emerging. On our way to Ryan's band concert last night, lightning cracking down to earth and provided us with its own show.The light filled the sky. 

Can you feel it?

Yesterday my phone read 94º. I know some people would say that's too hot too fast, but for me, it's better than the 4º back in January. It was a long, cold, snowy, icy winter and the warmth of the sun has felt great. But there is also a feeling in the air that it is coming, it is almost here…summer. The ice cream man has been making his rounds, the boys have been playing basketball out in the cul de sac with friends, laughing and screaming and just plain having a good time. Sometimes a huge manhunt game breaks out. The kids have gotten older and they will get on their scooters and go to all three cul de sacs in our neighborhood knocking on doors to gather as many kids as they can find for the game. Their boundaries have expanded throughout the years as they have grown. Kids could be hiding anywhere and good luck trying to find yours if you need them for dinner or to get in the car for a practice. 

Last week, there was a day that my boys were in the basement playing xbox. I really don't like it, not just because my boys are stationary on the couch, but more because their biggest fights break out while they are playing. They are extremely competitive, they always have been. But as they are getting older, their bodies have gotten bigger, their voices have gotten louder, and their arguments have grown with them, over FAKE basketball games on the xbox. Arguments about cheating, and quitting, and who knows what?!? And who cares? IT'S…NOT…REAL! So during the last fight breakout, I took xbox away from them…again. I've done this before and I know it will happen again. It's hard to do in the winter months when it's freezing outside with snow and ice on the ground, they can only be outside for so long. Taking the electronics away when the weather is nice is so much easier.

For the past few days, the boys have been coming home from school and disappearing for hours. No one has been coming home screaming or fighting. They have just been outside…but not playing basketball. They return after these long disappearances filthy, dirty, covered in mud and sweat…turn on the hose and strip in the laundry room dirty…but getting along and not fighting. I finally asked them, "What are you guys doing?"

"We are down at the creek."

 Now, my kids have past many of hours down by the creek. We have pods of frog eggs and tadpoles in the playhouse in the backyard that have been collected, turtles have come up from the creek into our yard and every time one shows up they always name it Franklin. One turtle actually laid it's eggs in our yard and the kids had us build a cage over the nest to protect it from other animals. Three months later we had baby turtles. In early summer, you can walk down there in the evening with a flashlight and sit to watch the amazing light show of a million fireflies. 

They love playing down by the creek. They get dirty and messy, but isn't that what boys should be doing? I was talking to a friend the other day that has a common area behind her house. It's an open area and her boys will play football or baseball out in the field. She said that she has had older neighbors that have complained about the boys. The boys have been yelled at for climbing the trees. While she was telling me this, I thought about how many people from the generation before me have said things about kids nowadays with all their electronics, and when they were a kid their curfew was when the street light came on, and the hours that they played outside, unscheduled, not at organized activities. But here were boys, just being kids, and getting in trouble for the stuff that this older generation all did in the good old days.

Yesterday, while I was dropping Molly off at dance, the boys came home from school. I walked into an empty house. A bag of popcorn was popped but not eaten.

Backpacks were on the ground, sneakers were kicked off, but no boys. I texted Ryan to see where he was, but then found his phone in his cubby. I then set out to find them. 

They were down by the creek. Ever since they lost xbox, they have been spending all their time down there. What were they doing? So I searched them out.

There they are. 

They were building, they were creating, they were getting along, they were working together. It was like the water in the creek possessed magical powers over my boys. They found wood that people must have discarded in the woods, 2x4's. They were building a fort. They had plans. They want to go to Home Depot to get longer nails, to maybe get a few more pieces of wood. They have plans to find flat rocks at the base of the tree because it is muddy and slippery and they thought if they build a small "patio" creekside, it would help. They built a bridge over the creek so they could cross, tied a rope around two trees to have something to hold on to so they wouldn't fall. 

Can you feel it? 

We had our last CCD class on Monday, Ryan had his last band concert last night, my kids are working through their SOL tests in school, two being taken today. Summer is coming! No schedules, no alarm clocks, no tests, no homework, just good old fashion play outside until your mom calls you home for dinner.  

I took the controllers for xbox so they couldn't play. Maybe I'll conveniently misplace them and not remember where I put them. Would that be such a bad thing? 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Sweet Sound of Our Garage Door

Life seems to be returning to normal around here, or at least a new normal for the moment anyway. I am sitting at my desk waiting for the critter control guy to arrive today. We have squirrels trying to make a nest in our attic and birds that have successful done so. Vents have been broken, holes have been gnawed, and they are in the air ducts. Today, everything will be removed and fixed and replaced and sealed.

Shannon is finally starting to feel like herself again, she is on a new school schedule of partial homebound classes and attending classes at school. She has been working almost every minute of the day trying to get herself caught up on 5 weeks of missed school work. She has to-do lists in her room, she has to-do lists taped to a cabinet in the kitchen. She is slowly crossing things off her lists to get caught up.

We also have a new car. Last week was filled with insurance calls, doctor visits, a rental car, and car shopping. For the most part, the accident stuff is behind us.

 Timmy went to the orthopedic yesterday for his knee pain. He went down pretty hard on it last week in a basketball game. The x-rays yesterday showed he might have chipped part of the bone and that he has Osgood-Schlatter Disease, which in mom language, is not a disease but a condition that has to do with growing pains. It's all manageable. And while I was sitting in the doctors office yesterday morning waiting for Timmy to get his x-rays and then to see the doctor, I brought my magazine, Seeing the Everyday. There are no advertisements in this magazine, it is just filled with stories on trying to stay in the moment, appreciating the small stuff, being grateful for the messy bits of life as well as the good stuff. 

Yesterday I read this one story, Garage Door, and I knew EXACTLY what the author was talking about. She wrote about a childhood memory of when her father would return home each night from a long day at work. She would wait in anticipation for the sound of the garage door opening. It was this "loud and often obnoxious" sound of the garage door rising on it's mechanism that triggered "the swells of physical warmth" inside of her. 

Anyone with listening ears could hear our loud door from virtually any room in the house. Like clockwork every evening, as my mother cooked dinner, signaling Dad's imminent arrival, I listened carefully in anticipation of the appointed time, waiting for the garage door to trumpet his homecoming.

I read this and I knew exactly what she was talking about even though I did not have this childhood memory. I grew up on Long Island. The houses in my neighborhood were old and most of them were small, with detached garages in the backyard. If they were attached to the house, I didn't know any neighbors that actually used it for their car. I even had a few neighbors that finished their garages and made them into family rooms. When I was really young, my father had a second job. My brother and I were usually fed and in bed before he came home. No, I do not share this childhood memory, this is my life right now! 

I have often thought of the sound of our own garage door while standing at the kitchen counter preparing dinner for my family. Chris will sometimes call in the late afternoon to find out what is on the schedule, who has what activity and if I need him to go pick someone up on his way home. He will let me know if he has something going on at work and what his estimated time of arrival home. Family dinner has always been a priority for me, but with our crazy schedule of activities, it getting harder and harder. When the kids were younger, their activities were usually right after school. We would be done by six or seven o'clock and then we would have dinner. Now, we have activities anywhere from 4:00 to 10:00 at night. Trying to carve out that niche of time for us to all come together is not easy.

But on those days that we can all eat together, when I am standing at the kitchen counter preparing our meal, putting dinner in the oven, trying to time everything just right, making sure everything is ready at the same time, I cook our meal in anticipation of the sound of the garage door opening. The signal that Dad is home.

A few weeks ago when Shannon was really sick with mono and wasn't eating at the table with us, I think it was Molly that said, "It just feels different when there is one family member missing, it doesn't matter which one, but things are just different." I completely agree with her, but Chris is the glitter of the family. Even if he has had a hard day at work, it is very rare for him to bring that hard day home with him. We sit at the table and tell stories and talk about our day. There is always great anticipation for him to come home. Sometimes he doesn't quite make it in time for dinner and we have to start without him because someone has a practice or game to go to afterwards. There are times we are sitting at the table eating dinner and we hear the rumble of the garage door opening and the kids yell "HIDE!" They disperse in different directions and wait for Chris to walk in the door and jump out to either scare or surprise him. They started doing this when they were little and they still do it not so little kids…and Chris plays along.

The sound of the garage door opening used to just signal Chris' arrival home, but now that the kids are older, they know the code to open the garage door. In the afternoon, I will be in the house busy folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen or sitting at my desk and I will hear the door start rolling upward and know that the boys are home from school. In the evening, I wait to hear it's sound if one of the kids is at an activity and someone else is carpooling. I hear the garage door moving on its track and I know that they have arrived home safely. 

Yesterday, Chris was in Boston for the day. His flight home was delayed because of the rain so he didn't get home until after 11:00. But it is not just me and the kids that anticipate the sound of the garage door. It is our pups as well. They have their own schedule. They get up every morning and go out, they let you know when it's dinner time, they know they get a bone in the evening…and they know Chris is suppose to come home every night as well. If Chris is on travel, those pups sit at the laundry room door waiting for his arrival and if he is late, they think every little sound, every little bump, every car in the cul de sac is Chris. Last night, I picked up Ryan from basketball at 9:30. The garage door opened and the pups were barking thinking we were Chris. Ryan and I walked in and they were still looking to see if Chris was going to walk through the door after us. They know that someone is missing.

It's funny that I read this magazine story this week because this week I've been thinking about the sound of the garage door a lot. Last weekend, Chris and Ryan got in a car accident and even though they are both completely fine and all is good, the sound of our garage door opening has been a bit sweeter each evening when Chris comes home, that loud, rumbly, rolling, mechanical sound is the signal that he is home and he is safe. The accident was bad enough to shake us all up a bit, a reality check that we don't know what each day may bring us, but not bad enough that anyone was really hurt. A blessing!

For many years the garage door opening has been the signal for just Dad's arrival home. But now it also signals me that kids have arrived home from school and sports and activities as they get dropped off from carpools. And soon, one by one, it will signal that they have arrived home safely from driving themselves, a stage of parenthood I'm not ready for!

Some afternoons, it's hard to keep track of where everyone is, and who's coming and who's going, but for now, there is a little bit more fanfare, a little bit more spirit, a little bit more gratefulness when one of my loved ones comes through the door…that rolling rumble of the garage door, well, it just brings a smile to my face. I know that they are home safe.

We decorated the garage door back in December for Chris' birthday.