Friday, December 25, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our Christmas Letter

Every year we write a family Christmas newletter to send to family and friends with our Christmas cards. With the advent of facebook and blogs we really don't find a reason to send out letters to everyone. Really, how much information about what we're up to do you all really care about??? BUT, I do have a collection of these letters in my girls' baby books and in our family Christmas album. It's a way we can look back on where we've been and how far we've come. I imagine my girls grown up, sitting with their children and reflecting on their childhoods by reading the yearly summaries. Also, there are actually friends and family members NOT on facebook or really on-line for that matter. They always enjoy hearing what's happened to us throughout the year.

So, I continue to write the letter. This year it's a downscaled version. I wrote it in plain old letter format instead of the usual newsletter stories with photos. And I'll put it here on my blog for those of you who don't get the letter in the mail or maybe have missed a few things along the way and would like to know what we've been up to this year. :-)

Dear Friends and Family –

Hope this finds you all well this holiday season. 2009 went by so fast it’s hard to believe it’s already December.

This year was a sad one for us. I lost my dad in February to cancer. We had been in Florida, visiting Tom’s mother when we got the news and left from there to go to Kansas for the services. The line for visitation was out the door – some waited over an hour to shake our hands and give us their condolences. I met so many people whom Dad had touched one way or the other; either through teaching, insurance sales, church, Kiwanis, Gideon’s or prisoner ministry. The services the next day were another amazing tribute to him with guest after guest standing to speak about how Dad had inspired them.

Tom has been busy, constantly analyzing, re-configuring and experimenting to stay on top of this rough economy. He has stayed busy and continues to book future business and everyday I am thankful for what a great sense for business he has. The amazing photography doesn't hurt either! He is considering training for another marathon if he can stay injury free this winter. Keep your fingers crossed!

Melanie is thriving in 4th grade. She still loves school and loves her social life. She is involved in jazz dance, piano, Junior Girl Scouts and now is starting to play the flute at school (My mom’s old flute from her HS days!). She will be playing the role of Mary in the church pageant.

Kylie is a full day first grader now and has transitioned very well. She has made many new friends and is now 7! She has taken up ice skating this year and was a baby angel in the ice Christmas show. She also continues to take dance and is in Daisy Girl Scouts. There are so many more things she wants to try and do, but there are only 7 days in a week!

I am working more now that Kylie is in school all day. I try to get in 4 days of work a week if the facility is busy enough. I am still per diem so I have the flexibility to continue to have the same schedule as the girls. I am leading both the Daisy Girl Scouts and the Junior troop along with a friend of mine. The rest of the time I play mommy chauffeur. I still love to read, but have not written much this year. (Although, I do have some new books listed on that I have written in the past. Check them out if you’re interested. Just do a search for Kelli Mustard-Davis. Become a fan on facebook and spread the word!)

Any family updates and photos you would like to see can be found on facebook as well as on my blog. . . I have to say I love facebook and the fact that I have found so many of my friends from Kansas as well as how easy it is to stay in touch with relatives who live far away. Tom has booked a ton of business just from facebook as well.

We had a very nice Thanksgiving this year. Tom’s cousin, Robin from Australia and her husband Ian visited the states for a surprise for Ian’s 50th birthday. They started out in California and made their way East, eventually to Cape Cod for Thanksgiving where Tom’s dad and Donna were able to join us.

Merry Christmas to everyone! Miss you all!

Love, Kelli, Tom, Melanie and Kylie Davis

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Note For My Readers

I'm guilty of it whenever I read a book. I always imagine the author in the role of the main character, even if I have never met them. Stephanie Meyer is Bella, Margaret Mitchell is Scarlett (and a little bit of Melanie), Henry Winkler IS Hank Zipzer. I try not to, but can't help it. What they are writing is a window into their secret thoughts. Some of it is real, some of it is completely fabricated creation. I can imagine for those who read my books and KNOW me to find it difficult to separate fact from fiction as well.

I have written 9 books, 7 of which are on Lulu open for public viewing right now. Each book has a little part of me in it. Maybe there is one scene that mirrors something that happened in my life. Maybe it's dialogue between a mom and daughter that is similar to dialogue I have had or witnessed. But the characters are not me and all the occurrences in the book are strictly fiction.

Try to keep this in mind when reading anything I've written. One of my more recent books may be more difficult for you to do (When it Rains. . .) because the main character is an occupational therapist and she has two daughters. The thinking behind this. . . .I had just written In the Weeds which took a lot out of me. I was ready for something fun, easy and smooth.

Why an OT?

1. I had written about being an Olympic swimmer, a movie star, an investigative reporter, a minister, a mom, and teenagers. I was ready to include a profession that I actually knew a lot about and wouldn't have to research.

2. You never see stories about OTs in main stream literature. We get a little excited when we see what we do in print.

3. Most people I know have no idea what an OT does. Read the book and you'll understand. I am being faithful to my profession by writing about it.

And why two daughters?

1. Again I was looking for a quick, easy, fun book to write. With two energetic girls running around me as I write, how can I not include some of the crazy things they say and do?

2. A successful author once gave me advice. Write down everything your kids do when they are little. They will make great characters in a book someday and you will never remember the dialogue that made it perfect if you don't write it down.

3. My girls are not Izzy and Katie - their personalities/ages/interests are different than my kids, and there really isn't anything specific in the book that actually happened. But really, it's more of just a feeling of the kids. If I wrote about boys it just wouldn't feel as "real" to me.

Outside of the character being an OT, living in a fictional seaside community (in CT) and having 2 daughters, there are no other similarities to my life. Tom does NOT appear in this book at all (or really any for that matter). I make sure to keep him out - his privacy is important to me and him. Things said between us never appear in my books. It is all completely fiction. I have never met a sexy drummer in a band, a balding, debonair attorney or had an attractive co-worker/boss in my life. In fact 98% of the people I work with are women. And the other 2%? Well, they are not Rick. Fiction, fiction fiction. . .

So do me a favor. If you know me well, please as you would do with any book you read, lose yourself in the characters. Take me out of it. Otherwise it would be weird for you to read it. And if I knew you were putting me in the story I would feel weird about it. It's a novel written by someone you have never met before. K? And if you can't do it - skip reading When it Rains and read In the Weeds instead. There are NO similarities to me in that story other than the main character moving to a small fictional town in Kansas (again, you never see KS in main stream literature and we Kansans get a little excited about it when it does occur).

Happy reading!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When it Rains. . .

Time for some blatant self-promotion. And time for you, my friends and family to dust off your reading glasses and catch up on some warm, cozy winter reads. I have updated my site and have a few new novels for your enjoyment.

For Fun: When it Rains. . .

Cali Kincaid is in a drought. A man drought. Ever since she threw her husband out three years ago she hasn't even kissed a man. Hearing the stories of the love lives of her best friends convinces Cali it's time to get back in the dating scene. Once the word gets out that she's looking, she suddenly has an abundance of men. Keeping her family, work and her new dating life straight leaves her overwhelmed and wishing for the quieter days. When it rains. . .it pours.

Oh and did I mention Cali is an OT?
And check out that cool cover photo taken by none other than Tom Davis. What a great team we make!

For inspiration: In the Weeds

Marti Mitchell is at the top of the paparazzi radar. After a life of alcohol, drugs and turbulent relationships, the actress can’t go anywhere without a camera in her face. So when her husband is caught cheating with a country music star and Marti is left abandoned, she decides it’s time to make some changes. She ends up in a small town under the assumed name of Becky Perkins. Here the media has yet to find her and she can live the life of a recluse. But before she knows it, she has started forming some relationships with some special people including a neglected six year old girl, a nurse who is desperate to have a baby and a roofer who can’t keep his eyes or his hands off of Becky. But the most important relationship is with the local minister, Blaine Thompson. She quickly learns that he can be trusted and is the one person in the world she can share all her secrets with. Blaine has secrets about his own past and together they form an unusual friendship.

Did I mention Marti's small town happens to be in Kansas? It's a fictional town based on the town where my grandparents lived and where my mom grew up, inspired by my trip there 2 years ago for my grandmother's funeral.

For the teen (but all women will like it too. . .you read Twilight right?): Boy Crazy

Crushes, boyfriends, first kisses, romance. . .16 year old Jenny Baker has spent her entire life daydreaming about guys, but has never actually accepted a date with one. She seems to find something wrong with every guy she meets and when she does happend to get close to one, she freaks! Now the pressure is on because Jenny's best friend's older brother, Chad is back in town from college and has suddenly developed an interest in Jenny. And Jenny can't find anything wrong with him. Along the way, Jenny's mother has started dating again for the first time since her divorce from Jenny's dad. And it just happens to be with Jenny's hot science teacher. At the same time, her best friend Erica is considering sleeping with her boyfriend for the first time. Jenny finds herself doling out relationship advice to both her mom and her friend when she herself has never been kissed....

Another for the teen: Butterfly Girl

Young adult version of Golden Rain. When 17 year old Jessica Martin attends an intense summer camp for elite swimmers, she finds herself immersed in the toughest competition that she's ever experienced. A novice coach, Brad Davenport believes Jessica's got what it takes to follow in his footsteps as an Olympic champion. They try to ignore a mutual attraction for each other as gossip begins to swirl around the camp about their relationship. Jessica struggles to fit in with all the girls and has to fight to prove herself as a powerful competitor to win the respect of her peers. Suddenly she and Brad are thrust into the spotlight when events beyond their control occur.

And some familiar favorites:

My best selling novel to date (and my Mother in Law's favorite!)- Crossroads

Corruption, scandal, murder - Anne Stone deals with these issues daily. She has run from abuse at the hands of her father to become a successful reporter. A call from her sister threatens to disrupt Anne’s career when she finds out that their mother has been diagnosed with cancer and is refusing treatment. Anne has to dig deep within herself to go home and find compassion for a woman who is in denial about the past. Anne tries to work on her relationship with her mother and often is tempted to give up. But something helps convince Anne to stay in Colorado and it has nothing to do with Anne’s family. Enter Kaylee - an imaginative six year old who is battling leukemia for the second time in her life and brings joy to their shared chemo room. Beside Kaylee is her dad Jake, a man whom Anne grew up with. As children they skipped rocks, climbed trees, teased siblings and skinny dipped. Jake knows all about Anne’s history and may hold the answer to being able to put the past behind her.

And a quick read: Cape Bounty

Maggie Baker has the perfect life - two gorgeous little girls, a devoted husband and a nice home on Cape Cod. In one tragic instant, her life is changed forever and leaves Maggie lost, alone and confused. Matt Bennett is the new doctor in town. Moving from New York City to become a family physician, he plans to work on his marriage and start a family with his wife, Judy. When old flames Matt and Maggie meet after 18 years apart, they are taken back to a time when life was not so complicated and remember what it is like to feel love from another person.

My first novel and the one that still holds a dear place in my heart. After all it did take me 10 + years to write the crazy thing. Once that was finished the rest came pouring out:

Golden Rain

Golden Rain is the coming of age story of young swimmer, Jessica Martin. When Jessica attends an intense summer camp for elite swimmers, she finds herself immersed in the toughest competition that she's ever experienced. A young, novice coach, Brad Davenport, discovers Jessica's hidden talent and takes her under his wing. Together they find a budding romance as they take the swimming world by storm. Brad believes Jessica's got what it takes to become an Olympic champion. A tragic setback turns Jessica's world upside down. She must find a will to survive and battle back against all odds. Along the way she meets Jon, someone completely different than anyone Jessica has ever known. Now she has many tough decisions to make including whether she wants to follow true love or follow her dreams.
Happy reading all my faithful friends!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Human Embryos in Fifth Grade?

I have always had a fascination with human anatomy, biology and human development. So when I was at the Boston Museum of Science over the summer I was excited to see the Beyond the Xray Exhibit and then across the hall, How Your Life Began exhibit. The girls and I spent a lot of time in the Beyond the Xray, but when I ventured to the other exhibit, I wasn't quite sure if they were ready to see what was on display.

There were actual zygotes, embryos and fetuses in various stages of development encased in the black glass display cases. The lighting in the room was dark and subdued, the voices quiet whispers in strong contrast to the loud raucous room we just left. Kylie - my 6 year old ran around from display to display, not having any idea what she was looking at and I didn't pull her over and explain it to her.

But Melanie I guided through the displays. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: See how the cells divide and by the end of the first month the baby starts to take shape?

Melanie: Is that a real baby?

Me: Yes. These are all unborn babies that didn't survive and the parents decided it would be ok to have other people learn from them. And look by the end of the second month it. . .

Melanie: Can we go now?

Ok, so maybe she wasn't ready for this. Too young. We went through the rest of the display, quickly. . .me intrigued and wanting to read everything, but I didn't for the sake of the girls. I left and we went on with our day.

Two months later, the next time we were at the same museum as soon as we walked through the front doors Melanie said, "Don't make me go into that room with the dead babies." But we did spend an hour watching chicks hatch from an egg. . .couldn't pull her away from that display. THAT was where she was developmentally.

Now we learn that a fifth grade teacher at my daughter's school has brought a guest speaker in to talk about cell development and along with various slides of organ tissue to look at under the microscope, had some jars of human embryos with her as well. The age of these embryos is unclear. But the statement from the superintendent states that they were several different ages so organ development could be assessed. Sounds bigger than a few cells to me. Sounds like they could easily be identified as human babies.

The science lesson is a good one.. .for young adults. Little kids are going to focus on the fact that they are holding a jar with a dead baby inside and not on the lesson at hand. 10 year olds don't have the maturity to see past the floating baby. (I would have a hard time with that. . .encased in a glass case behind a wall is one thing. . . holding it in my hands in a jar of formaldehyde is another).

And seeing it in the museum with your mom or even on a parent approved field trip is acceptable. Glass jar, classroom, kids with varying levels of maturity another. When did it become ok to treat human life so casually?

Seventh grade was a big year for us. That's when we got to start dissecting things as a part of life science. I can't remember how many things we dissected. Frogs, sharks, I think even cats. I learned so much about the body and organs from the hands on approach.

High school advanced biology SENIOR year- we took a field trip to the University of Kansas cadaver lab (of course with parent approval). We saw an embryo on that trip and the professor showed it to us with reverence. We had been given instructions prior to the field trip to have respect for the human bodies and the dissections that we would encounter. But at 17 years old did we heed those orders? We goofed off, we took photos and posed next to the bodies for our yearbook layout, we cracked jokes about what we were seeing and we were mostly the top 10% of our senior class. But the experience did help to shape what I would study in college.

Again I found myself in cadaver lab as an undergrad for my anatomy class and AGAIN in OT school a year later. This time I was the one doing the dissecting and I think we were finally at a maturity level to handle the importance of what we were doing. Someone gave their body to us to learn from. Someone who had a life and lost it from either illness, injury or old age. We learned to respect our work and treat the bodies with kindness, respect and solemnity (most of us anyway).

Fifth grade is too young for human babies in a glass jar. There are so many things wrong with the scenario. Parents should have been notified of the project and given the choice of keeping their kids out. Most would probably have said it was ok. . .and discussed it with them at home. But they should have been given the choice.

Fifth grade is appropriate for a pig, shark, frog. . . any of which could have been learned from. Maybe they were studying human cells, but even a word or two from the teacher or presenter that we learn from animals first and then as we get more into the sciences we begin to learn from actual human samples. . .

And in the words of my husband, previous middle school science teacher, "They are in 5th grade.....maybe high school might be ok or even 7th grade when they are studying life science. Even then there are several ways to teach cell development besides having them look at HUMAN embryos in 5th grade - especially without notifying the parents first IMHO. Remember I am a former middle school science teacher. I'm all for ... more hands on especially at that age but geez....Also they are using latex gloves to handle jars of formaldehyde - A - the school is suppose to be latex free B - You are having 5th graders handle breakable glass jars containing hazards waste - a known hazardous chemical in a classroom without proper ventilation."

One news source said it must be a slow news day if Fox News is covering a story about a teacher just doing her job.

So, hazardous wastes, latex gloves, toxic chemicals in glass jars in the hands of 10 year olds, human embryos. . . sounds like MORE people should be standing up and paying attention.

I usually refrain from putting my opinion out there, but actually can't help but saying, Come on, seriously? Who can think this is ok?

No one should think it's ok to treat human life so casually at the age of 10.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I've learned about H1n1

Melanie is still coughing a bit from her bout with H1n1. Her appetite is slowly improving, but she still is needing more sleep than usual. She is on antibiotics for the secondary sinus infection that she developed, but she is fine.

As are all her friends who have had it.

And so is her sister who only developed a cough, no fever, but according the pediatrician it doesn't matter. She had it too.

We've had worse. . .much worse.

I understand where the worry comes from. It's an unpredictable illness. Some get it so mildly that the parents never even consider H1n1 to be a possibility. . .sending them to school everyday, spreading the germs throughout. Some had it already awhile ago and are only now realizing that was what it probably was. Others get a severe reaction, resulting in pneumonia, dehydration and hospitalization. The fear and worry is the uncertainty where your child will fall when or if he/she does get it.

And then there is the median group. Those who have a sore throat, cough and fever that can reach 103 and 104 lasting 3, 4 or 5 days, but are able to fight it on their own. Some of them will develop the sinus infection or pneumonia after, but not all.

Melanie had a slight cough for 2 days, then a slight headache and sore throat for 2 days, then muscle aches and a low grade fever for another day before the full onset of high fever and symptoms. Her fever hit 104 and only came down 2 degrees with Motrin, then hit the 104 mark again within a few hours. Cold, wet washcloths and Tylenol did the trick to keep in manageable until Motrin could be given again. The high fever lasted 2 days, then a low grade fever for another day, then she seemed better except still so tired. But after a day of no fever, it spiked again, the coughing, running nose (yes you can get a runny nose with H1n1!!) and fatigue became worse and off to the doctor we went.

"Yes, it was H1n1. And now it's developed into a sinus infection. But thankfully no pneumonia yet."

"No, we're not going to swab. . .swabbing is painful and invasive and her symptoms are an exact match to everyone else we've swabbed. They have all come back positive for H1n1 and there is no other flu out there right now."

"Yes, your other daughter most likely had it as well. Hopefully she'll continue to fight off the worsening symptoms. Just keep an eye on her."

So for those of you whose kids have similar symptoms but think it's just a cold or something else, think again. They've got it, it's not that bad and be thankful that it isn't developing into something worse.

And we will keep plugging along, hoping the antibiotics wipe it out and we have seen the last of it in our house.

Friday, November 6, 2009


The word "Life" was scratched into the wooden bench in front of me at the courthouse. I sat there studying the graffiti as I waited for the instructions to the jurors to begin. I wondered the meaning of that word to the person who etched it in. Was it another potential juror such as myself, contemplating the meaning of our purpose here? Was it scratched by a witness to the crime, waiting to take the stand to testify, hoping that the accused would be convicted and sentenced to life in prison? Or was it scratched by a believer that all life is sacred and should be preserved, wanting to pass the message onto the hundreds of other people who would be sitting in these very seats.

The courtroom was elaborate and stately. History surrounded us in the paintings on the walls and in the sculptures of judges who resided on the bench as many as 150 years ago. A stone cod fish hung from the ornately painted ceiling, his nose pointed toward the judges bench. I took my time examining the room, it's chandeliers and the sounds of echoing footsteps through the hallways.

Jury duty progressed from the waiting, into instruction, then to moving to smaller rooms to wait some more. I got many chapters of my book, Olive Kitteredge read and observed what others around me were reading. A woman slightly older than myself was reading "The Glass Castle" - the book written by Jeannette Walls whom I had met in person the week before. I thought about approaching her to strike up a conversation about it, but didn't that day. . .what I didn't realize was there would be plenty of time for that later. Another man was reading "Catch me if you can." There were romance novels, adventure novels, mysteries, spy novels, Wall Street Journals, Time Magazines, Blackberries, iPhones. . .everyone was reading something. In a room of 65 jurors there was complete silence as if we were all taking board exams. Once in awhile someone would speak up and say, "I'm finished with this magazine if anyone wants it." Then there would be shuffling, responses and then quiet would settle over us again.

Finally after 2 hours of waiting, the court officer came to us, thanked us for our patience and said, "If your jury number is between 1 and 49 follow me." Groans and sighs went through the room as people realized they fell in that number. Did that mean that we would be here even longer? My number was 22 - safely in the middle. I rose and followed the crowd to the hallway, past the large superior courtroom, into a smaller room labeled "Superior Courtroom number 2." This room was a disappointment. After being in the main, hallowed halls of the other courtroom, sitting in the small confines of a room barely bigger than my family room with 49 jurors, lawyers, a judge, court officer, court clerk, stenographer and the plaintiff and defendant in the case, I felt slightly claustrophobic.

The judge gave us a brief overview of the case being tried. It was a civil suit of a landscaper who had a fairly large, successful business who decided to buy another smaller landscape business from a man who was getting close to retirement. They drafted a purchase and sale agreement and the older man came to work for the younger. The problem occurred when the older man was unhappy with the way the larger business was ran and found many of his long-time customers were also unhappy. The younger man was unwilling to change his business practices (they had been successful for him after all) and words were exchanged. The older man quit the job and a few weeks later was found working on the properties he had "sold" to the other business despite having signed a "non-compete" agreement for these.

The impanelment of the jury began and I was deeply entranced by the process. They ask you several questions, "Do you know either of the parties? Do you know the lawyers? Do you know any of these witnesses from the list? Do you have any reason to suspect you might be biased?" If your answer was yes to any of the questions, you were to raise your jury card and the court officer went around the room shouting out the numbers while the court clerk kept track of them. At the end of the questioning they went through the numbers starting with number 1. "Juror number 1 please approach the bench." This meant that the number 1 juror had answered yes to one of the questions. She stepped up to speak with the judge and the two attorneys and then the judge gestured toward the doorway and the court officer escorted her from the courtroom. Then the court clerk again spoke, "Juror number 2 please take jury seat number 1."

The first juror was seated and so on through the numbers they went. It was like waiting for the big climax of the movie or waiting for the doctor to give you that dreaded diagnosis. Would they get to number 22 before they filled the 12 seats? I was nervous with anticipation. The man next to me was staring intently at his card that had a big "20" printed on it. Well, at least I know he'd go before me. He sighed heavily every time someone was excused from the room and another number closer to his was seated in the jury box.

Finally the 12th seat was the only one empty and I began planning the rest of my day. Lunch at Panera sounded good. Then maybe a trip to Kmart for some supplies, maybe stop by the mall to pick up a gift for my friend's birthday. "Juror number 20 please take seat 12." A large groan and sigh came from beside me as he gathered his things and trudged to the last seat. I relaxed down into my chair, but was still watching the proceedings. They weren't excusing us yet. The lawyers and the judge were looking over our questionnaires that we had filled out. Then they started calling up some of the 12 jurors to ask them questions about what they had written down. Each one that they called up returned to their same seats, so I still wasn't worried.

Then it happened. The clerk turned toward the courtroom and stated, "Jurors in seats 4, 6 and 8 you are excused."

Now it was my turn to groan. "Juror number 22 please take seat 4."

There I was. Impaneled on a jury for my first time ever. And the judge said the trial was going to last at least all week, maybe into next.

The week only ended up lasting until Thursday. Hours and hours of testimony from witnesses, pages and pages of notes taken by each of us jurors, thousands of copies of evidence made for everyone. . . all to be a waste as the parties decided to settle out of court. I'm glad they decided to settle. . .I was struggling with how I felt about the case. On one hand the younger business owner had a right to be mad for the older man to work for customers he had spent A LOT of money on in their transaction. But he still owed him money for the business and it didn't seem right that the older man wasn't going to be compensated for his business he had spent 40 years building from nothing after immigrating here from The Azores. After all, the older man said when he took the witness stand, "I was only doing (the younger man) a favor by working on those properties. Because if they had called a different landscaper to do those small jobs, they might have taken all their business to them and he would have lost that contract entirely. After all (the younger man) still owed me for the business and it was set up on a percentage of sales. I didn't want the sales to go down because then the payments to me would go down as well."

Ahh, that makes sense. . .and maybe the younger man finally - after 3 years of fighting about this - heard him. That night he offered the older man the adjusted amount owed and all was well.

Along the way I met some interesting people. It always intrigues me how a group of complete strangers can so quickly get to know and like each other. The first day, I had lunch with a woman named Marie who worked in a research laboratory at Woods Hole with the underwater submersibles (Alvin). Wow, cool.

Then I became friendly with the juror in seat 5. She had a daughter who was in the process of buying a house in LA and was frequently getting text messages with updates about the offers/counteroffers, etc. The woman in seat 6 (the reader of The Glass Castle) was a biologist from the National Seashore and had a lot to say about unrestrained dogs on the beaches that disturbed the endangered Piping Plover population.

Then there was the Harvard graduate with a PhD in some kind of science who did beekeeping as a hobby. This sparked much interest from the rest of the jury and there was a lot of "bee" conversations during our down time. Who knew I'd learn the difference between the passive Italian bees and their aggressive counterparts the African? Also did you know that bees don't hibernate in the winter like most insects? They are still active in the hive, but stay put unless the weather is 45 or above. This man's hives produce 75 pounds of honey a year of which he is only able to sell about 40 pounds of. . .and he doesn't even like honey. It gives him an upset stomach.

Then there was the journalist who was late one day because he almost burned his house down with an errant tea pot. . .a man who was an insurance salesman whose wife baked us wonderful homemade chocolate chip cookies. . .a woman who worked in a law office who had approached the bench with a request to be excused because she had already served on 3 juries (obviously didn't work). . .the man who had been number 20 who didn't interact with any of us, but spent the whole time on his cell phone with his office whenever we had a break. . .an older woman who walked with a cane and didn't share much about her life, but made sure to ask about how my kids were feeling every day (Melanie home sick with H1N1 - another story for another day). . . and a very nice older, retired man from Portugal who had a granddaughter also home sick with a fever.

The judge in the case was wonderful. I thought he was probably the opposite of what you would expect a judge to be. He was considerate - always concerned with our comfort and the need to stretch or take a break. He made sure that everyone talked slowly and loudly so the stenographer could keep up. He made the attorneys approach the bench frequently to scold them about asking the same questions over and over and wasting all our time. And he didn't hesitate to explain things thoroughly to us, understanding that many of us had never even been inside a courtroom before.

In all it was a positive experience (one thankfully I won't have to repeat for at least 3 years since serving makes me exempt for that length of time). I learned a lot about our American civil court system and met some people I never would have crossed paths with on any other occasion. I also learned how much effort, time and money is put into creating a lawsuit against someone and vow that I will hopefully never find myself in that situation. If we could all work out our differences in a different manner without the lawyers and the courtrooms, what a difference LIFE would be.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Substitute Grandparents

I always imagined myself in a career where I would work with children. When I was a child myself, I wanted to be a teacher someday. I couldn't wait until I was old enough to babysit and then when the time for college came, I took on any job I could that involved kids. I was a behavior teacher to kids with autism and a respite care worker for families with special needs.

Life led me down a different path. After school I worked in a rehab facility because they paid for my schooling. But I was the lead therapist if we ever had any pediatric patients (we had one while I was there). Then Tom and I got married and decided to move east. The job offers came easily for skilled nursing facilities and I took one with the paycheck that could support us until he got his business off the ground, always thinking someday I would venture into the pediatric world where I really belonged.

Life again took over. . .I actually found pleasure working with the geriatric population and stuck around until my first child was born. Then I quit the job and went to work for Tom for awhile until after Kylie was born. It wasn't until the RHCI Children's Center opened that I considered going back into OT. That's what I became an OT for, right? It was the kids.

So for 2 years I worked with children, both in the rehab setting and in the schools. But something kept leading me back to the geriatrics. Maybe it's their stories about their rich, fulfilling, sometime difficult lives that I can't get enough of. Maybe it's the challenge of trying anything and everything to get them home again where they want to be - to help them not give up and give into the process of aging - not yet. And the rewards I would experience when we as a team of therapists, nurses and doctors would be successful.

Two patients of mine that I have had over the years really stick with me. I will change their names to protect their privacy, but if any of my co-workers read this, they will surely recognize them. First is George. He is a sweet, loving man in his 90s that has lived alone ever since his wife passed away. He still managed all his own household and yard duties, still drove and still made all his own meals. What brought George to us was an accident on his riding lawn mower. He had gotten his leg stuck in between the wheel and the engine and had been there for several hours before a neighbor happened upon him and helped him. He had broken his leg and surgery (due to his age and heart trouble) wasn't really an option. So in he came for rehab with his knee immobilizer on - needing us to make him strong and safe again to go home.

George was extremely hard of hearing and I usually have difficulty communicating with someone very deaf. I have a soft voice and sometimes even if I feel like I'm shouting I still can't get the person to understand me. But somehow George and I could communicate with each other. He had soft, penetrating eyes and a fearless expression on his face at all times. While I would be working with him in therapy, we would talk extensively about his life, about my kids, about books, the news headlines and about why it was so important for him to get home and be independent once more. He was strong and feisty and I looked forward to all our sessions together. I often thought of him as a grandparent figure. If either of my grandfathers had still been alive, I imagined these were the kinds of conversations I would have with them. When we sent him home, I was sad to see him go, but satisfied that he would be safe - for now anyway.

Then there was Kathryn. 92 years old and mentally sound and competent. She had been shopping at Stop and Shop for a family picnic and had lifted a large watermelon (she always brought the watermelon) to put into her cart. But the watermelon had slipped from her hands and instead of letting it smash to her feet, she instinctively reached out to catch it. In doing so she tore the rotator cuff muscles in her shoulder. Being healthy, the doctors decided to give her the surgery necessary to regain some of her function.

Kathryn came to us in a lot of pain and needed some TLC and encouragement to participate in the rigorous rehab of her shoulder. She reminded me of my own grandmother before she had started to lose her memory. Grandma had been a patient of mine in Kansas after she broke her hip. She hated pain!! Had no tolerance for it. But she was fiercely independent and don't you dare ever suggest she needed to slow down or stop driving or carrying a watermelon! So I would very, very gently range Kathryn's arm during therapy, thinking of Grandma. And to distract her, she and I would talk about her husband who resided on our long term Alzheimer's unit. I was intrigued by her stories of her life before he had become sick and how she had witnessed his slow decline from successful respected businessman to someone who couldn't remember his the names of his children or eventually how to feed himself. Kathryn was sad to have lost him in such a way, but at the end of each of our sessions she would ask me if I could wheel her down to sit with Al downstairs. I would oblige and would even stick around to watch as he ignored his own wife, or when he would acknowledge she was there, would say something mean and spiteful toward her. She would never give up in her devotion to him, would explain to those around us, "This isn't Al talking. It's the Alzheimer's. He was never anything but kind to me in our lives."

Kathryn's spirit and determination was inspirational to me. I found a deep respect for her and a certain kinship. I was determined that we would get her back home independent again and one day she would be shopping and driving just as before.

Al passed away shortly after Kathryn was discharged home. It made me feel sad for her, but I knew the Al she had known and loved had been gone long before his death. Now, maybe, I thought to myself, she could live without worrying about whether he was eating right, or not being aggressive toward the staff or not falling out of bed and breaking a hip. Now Kathryn could focus on her own health.

Both of these patients I had worked with about a year ago. Now they are both back at our facility once again. They have both declined significantly over the last year. George's knees will no longer support his weight at all and he has to be transferred with a sliding board in and out of his chair. He is awaiting surgery - the surgery that the doctor a year ago didn't advise because of his heart condition - but now without it he will never walk again. He is not on therapy services as he waits for his operation, but I find myself in his room every single day checking on him and sitting at his bedside, falling into the easy conversations we once had. Now his breathing is labored and he wears oxygen most days and I worry that if they do the surgery he might not wake up. I worry that if they don't do the surgery he will pass away from loss. . .the loss of his independence and future.

Kathryn had fallen at home and broken some vertebrae in her back. She wears a back brace and has a lot of pain and discomfort with walking. She doesn't remember me or our conversations we had the last time she was there. Her mind, once sharp as a tack was now leading her to be forgetful - forgetting our names and why she is there, again reminding me of my own grandmother's decline. I look at her with sadness, wondering if losing Al was more than she could handle. Maybe she needed him alive, to keep her own mental status in check - because she had something to focus on - he needed her so she maintained herself for him. I still stop in and chat with her even though she doesn't know who I am. I see the confusion in her eyes and the wish that she could grasp onto some sort of memory that would link me to her.

There are many other patients I have worked with over the years that also stick with me. There's Mary who had a stroke with complete right sided flaccidity, but she never lost her sense of humor. She was a difficult transfer and once I found myself sitting on her bed with her in my lap (the only way I could have kept her from hitting the floor) both of us erupting into a serious case of the giggles before another therapist happened along and untangled us.

There is Frank who survived a submarine explosion in WWII, lasting for 2 days in the frigid water until a cargo ship happened along and rescued him, taking him to New Zealand where he recuperated for 2 weeks until going home to a family who had already had his funeral.

Who can forget Stan who had a stroke that left him unable to speak with his voice, but had an amazing ability to get his point across with his facial expressions, stomping his foot, and pointing rigorously to his communication board.

Then there was the one patient in Kansas - Paul - the young stroke patient who had at one time played for the Harlem Globetrotters. He also was aphasic (unable to speak) and had severe neglect of his right side of his body. The sadness and helplessness in his eyes was difficult to bear with at times. I would find myself constantly praising him and encouraging him even though his progress was extremely slow and hopeless.

And Tim. Oh, Tim. He was the 19 year old spinal cord injury patient who dove into a pool at a party and had broken his neck. I was only 22 when I worked with Tim and he used to look at me with such determination and hope that he could overcome this. His parents wanted him transferred to a top spinal cord injury center in Hawaii, sure that something could be done to progress his therapy even faster. He was destined to a life in a wheelchair and I often wonder where he is now. Did he succumb to the complications that can arise from such an injury? Or is he still out there looking for a miracle to get him walking again? Or maybe he became a spokesperson for spinal cord injuries. I'm sure I'll never know.

And there is Eliza who wants to go back to her house so badly and live alone, but is battling fiercely with her children who think they know what's best for her and want her to move to an assisted living. But she won't budge in her stance and I worry that if her children are successful in getting her to move from her beloved home she will slowly wither away and be consumed by her own depression.

Each person I see has a story - a long, rich, complicated story that led them to the point in their lives that they needed my help. I am there to try to assist them through this phase in their lives. Assist them to return to some kind of functional life where they can live out the rest of their days in peace and happiness. So the reward, although not what I expected to be doing when I started this career, is satisfying and complete.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mary, Mary

A shout out to my friend Mary who informed me about this great query contest done by another Mary from . .check it out all you writers! Deadline for entries is October 31. Hmmm, now which one should I submit??

Monday, October 12, 2009

Being 6

I am the proud mother of a 6 almost 7 year old. Inside a 6 year old's mind must be a truly happy place to be. To be able to dance through life on a whim would be purely magical.

My 6 year old is one that has a hard time focusing on what she "supposed" to be doing. It's not ADD. . .she can focus fine in school - in fact almost too well. But unfortunately the rigors of 1st grade don't allow for a whole day to be spent on getting the googly eyes on her sock puppet positioned just right, so that leads to frustration and tears (I think less this year than last, so she's learning to adjust).

But no, her focus is difficult to maintain at home. Brushing teeth is a perfect example. I tell her to go brush. . .then 10 minutes later I tell her again. . .10 minutes and so on until she's finally in front of the mirror. But wait, first she has to wash her hands, but the sink is all wet, so first she has to dry the sink off, but the towel is wet from Melanie who just washed her hands, so she needs a new towel, and so on. Finally she gets her toothbrush in her hand but then she catches sight of herself in the mirror. Oh, look at the funny faces I can make! "Mommy, come here! Look at my fish face!"

"Yes, yes." I say. "Come on. Let's brush." I hurry her along and give her the toothpaste. Oh, too much toothpaste, need to start all over. Finally get just the right amount of paste and wetness on the brush so I retreat across the hall to let her brush.

And then "AAAAAAA!!!!!!"



"What, Kylie? Why are you screaming?"

"There is a fly in here!!!! AAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!"

I look to no avail. See no fly, anywhere.

"Kylie brush." It just by this points comes out of my mouth automatically for about the 3,000th time in a 5 minute period.

We have a rule that you stay in the bathroom over the sink while you are brushing your teeth. Does anyone else have to implement this rule? Well it's a rule that Kylie has successfully broken each and every time she brushes her teeth. She dances down the hall, comes to tell me a story about something that happened in school, goes through Melanie's things, etc, etc all while the toothbrush is in the side of her mouth brushing the same 2 molars.

Finally after 30 minutes from the first time I told her to brush, she is finished. Not sure if she actually got all the teeth, but maybe next time.

Then there are the times when we are all busy bees, cleaning, putting away clothes and so on. Melanie is quietly in her room doing what she is supposed to be doing. From Kylie's room I hear music and then. . .

"Turn, gallop, gallop, gallop, turn, plie'. Step to the side, turn, gallop, gallop, turn plie'." I open the door and see her eyes closed dancing around the room with a pile of shirts in her arms she is supposed to be putting away.

"Kylie. Focus please. Let's get your clothes put away, then you can dance."

"But Mommy, I'm working on my show for tonight. Watch." Then she proceeds to gallop, gallop, turn, plie'.

This past Saturday night, Melanie was at a sleepover and Tom didn't have to work. We had a rare night with just Kylie all to ourselves. Tom wanted to go for a run, so we decided to pack Kylie's bike in the car and all of us head to the canal.

"She has trouble going straight and getting herself started." I tell Tom.

Every time I try to get her to start herself, she has about 300 things to tell me. All non-bike related.

"Are those bats?" She says pointing to the Cormorants perched on the dock.

"No, honey, Cormorants. Ok. you need to put your foot down and push off as the other foot goes to the pedal."

"Is this the deep end?"

"Deep end of what?"

"The canal?'

"It's all deep, all the way through."

"What if I lose my jacket?"

I look at her. Her zippered sweatshirt in on her securely, zipped even.

"How would you lose your jacket?"

"If I fall in the water. What if my jacket falls off?"

"You're not going to fall in the water. You would have to drive off the sidewalk across 10 feet of grass and rock before you would even come close to the water. Ok, now push off with this foot and put your other foot on the pedal."

We finally get going and she rides on the left side of the yellow line. The side that is heading straight into the incoming runners, bikers, rollerbladers, etc. Luckily it's near dark and the canal is nearly deserted.

"Kylie you are supposed to stay on the right side of the line."

"I don't want to fall in the water."

Then she weaves. From one side of the sidewalk to the other.

"Try to go straight."

She giggles.

Tom is running in front of her, turning around, running backward.

"Follow Daddy." I tell her.

She giggles again then slams on her brakes. Tom comes to her to help her get started.

"Is there a such thing as bats, daddy?"

And so it begins again. . . .

When my cousin who is 10 years older than me was visiting with her family this summer, after having a chance to get to know the real Kylie, she commented to one of my friends, "I remember Kelli as a little girl at Grandma's house. She acted just like Kylie."

"What?? No way." I say.

But my friends laugh and grab onto that statement. Now everytime Kylie acts up around them they say, "she's just following after her Mama!"

Could it be? Did I act like that?

Every once in awhile, when I throw responsibility to the wind and forget about that ever ticking clock that is telling us we are way past bedtime, I'll find myself next to Kylie. . .

Gallop, gallop, turn plie'. . .all while making fish faces.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Beyond the surgery

Eighteen days post-op from gallbladder surgery and other than one itchy spot I feel like nothing happened.

I had no idea what to expect the recovery to be like. The doctor's description was vague, everyone I talked to who had it done had a different story to share. Some were down for the count for a month, others were back to work 4 days later. I would say for me it was about a week before I was feeling somewhat normal again.

The first 24 hours were tough. I learned that my stomach is much weaker than I thought. I always prided myself in my iron stomach. The sight of blood doesn't bother me. I made it easily through dissection cadaver lab (a whole summer of dissecting a human body that had been eaten away by cancer - saw things that could make your head spin. We had to actually abandon our body and join another group because the organs were so badly damaged). I work with patients who have open wounds and varying continence levels (do get a little nauseous when they brush their teeth though - can't really explain that one).

But give me a drug of any kind and my stomach goes into protection mode. After my c-sections I couldn't keep anything down for awhile. After this gallbladder surgery, I was afraid to take the pain pills right away because the anesthesia itself had made me nauseous. I finally gave in and had the nurse give me something. After all my shoulder was killing me.

My shoulder? I expected my abdomen to hurt, but not my shoulder. After researching it, I found out that when they pump you full of air to get a better look at the organs inside, the result is terrible shoulder pain. That was the worst. I couldn't take a breath.

And then there was the bladder issues. My bladder went to sleep with the anesthesia and took it's time in waking up. Like 36 hours worth of time. Bladder pain, shoulder pain, abdominal muscle pain. . .and then the nausea.

I went home about 4:00 on the day of surgery. I was uncomfortable at the hospital. Had to get out of that environment. I felt much better at home, but it was a long, rough night. And the next day was rough too. I was starting to regret having the surgery done.

But day 3 dawned and the pain wasn't quite as bad. I decided time for a shower and some ibuprofen. Now the shoulder pain was lessened, I could actually go to the bathroom (finally) and the muscles weren't screaming at me. I cringed at the sight of the morphine and knew I was done with narcotics.

Day 4 was even better than day 3. But on day 5 the incisions started to hurt. I hadn't felt anything from them until then. The doctor had told me that he put a long lasting anesthetic on them. I think I felt it the moment that it wore off. More ibuprofen and I decided I was ready to drive again. Mom and I met my girlfriends at the canal and despite windy, chilly conditions and pants that were a little uncomfortable across my swollen belly I walked the entire 4 miles with them. Woo-hoo! What an accomplishment!

But that night the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks sometime during the pizza/bingo night at the school. Every year that is an exhausting, over-stimulating night for me. I don't know why I thought I could handle it 4 days after surgery. I was ready to go home and lay on the couch again.

Saturday was recovery day from Friday. Other than Kylie's soccer game, we pretty much laid low the whole day. Sunday back to church and then by Monday I was ready to re-enter the world full-force. So one week. . .for all of you out there who may have to have this done sometime. One week to feel normal again - but give yourself that 2nd week to ease yourself back into life, make sure you're ready to tackle the crazy schedule and routine. Have your mom there to lean on if you need extra help or need to take a break. That would be my advice! But we are all different. If your bladder doesn't decide to take a long siesta and you don't have any trouble with nausea, you could be fine even quicker. But if you have complications or an infection it could take longer.

Oh, and when the glue falls off sometime in the 3rd week. . .it's not pretty and it hurts like a band aid. . .a really stuck band aid on a really sensitive spot.

The doctor says I'm recovering perfectly and gave me one tidbit. . ."the only side-effect with eating from here on out is that now that you can eat anything you want to, you may gain weight."


"Often times my patients are so used to staying away from the high fat foods, that now that they can eat them they over-indulge."

Great, so the pint of Ben and Jerry's I had this week wasn't a good idea?

But the thought of some fried food and pizza and ice cream keep nagging at me. . .I stayed away from that stuff all summer and didn't lose a pound. Not fair. Since the surgery I am down 4 pounds, but I expect that to go back up now that my appetite is back (and with a vengeance!).

I have to say a big THANK YOU to my mom. She took care of me, rubbed my back when I was sick and kept the girls quiet, fed and entertained.

Tom was great too. . . stayed with me all that day at the hospital. . .didn't leave my side even to get himself some lunch, drove all over creation to find the horrible drugs that I didn't end up taking more than a couple of.

And the girls. . .I think they learned compassion and understanding for how to behave when someone doesn't feel well. I have two wonderful, strong daughters. Kylie asks a lot of questions about it all - the drugs, the pain, the incisions, the anesthesia. She worries she will have to have surgery too some day. A friend of hers just had a kidney removed (and back in school 8 days later!!!), so it seems she's surrounded at the moment and is having a bit of anxiety about it. But if she does end up having surgery someday, I hope that my and her friend's example she will know that she can be just as strong and healthy as she was before and not to be afraid.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rejection Part 2

Something to add to the story below and part of another reason why I haven't sent off that revision. . .

Recently I was in Titcomb's Bookshop. Now, I love Titcomb's. It's my favorite bookstore. . .the smells of old books, the soft music playing, the authors who visit, the activities they plan, the ladies who work there and love to read and know every book in that shop. . .all of it. While I was making a purchase one day a lady comes in with a children's picture book under her arm and engages in a discussion with the manager that went something like this:

Author: I have published this book and would like to know if you would sell my book here and let me do an author's signing.

Manager (looking the book over quickly): Has it been reviewed?

Author: It's listed on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Borders. I have reviews there.

Manager: By a newspaper?

Author: No. (she's starting to scramble) But, I live locally. I live here in Sandwich.

Manager: We don't do any book signings until it's been reviewed.

Author: Oh. How do I go about that?

The manager kindly proceeded to explain the process to her. . .a process I know about because I attended a workshop about getting your book reviewed by a newspaper. Bigger newspapers get upwards of 500 books per week to review and if you have seen your Sunday paper lately, how many of them actually make it in? About 10? 20? How many of those are children's picture books?

I left the store feeling sorry for this woman. She went through the agonizing process of getting an agent and a publisher and now her own local bookshop wasn't going to allow her to sell it there until she gets it reviewed, which may never happen. These days the publishers don't do the marketing for you. They pretty much leave it up to the authors to take care of that.

Didn't make me feel very enthusiastic or encouraged!!


Usually I keep quiet about my journey as a writer. Continuous rejection can do wonders for your confidence. . .but there are positives about the journey that I should share. . .

Recently I finished a novel for young adults, the third young adult novel I have written. Not thinking too much more about it than other books I had written I submitted my query letters to ten agents. Three of the ten responded quickly, asking to see more (a good sign!). One asked for an exclusive (I said no). After sending additional material, two wanted to see the whole thing. Six weeks pass and being down this road several times I didn't think or worry too much about it. Then one day an agent called me on the phone. Now, this has never happened before. Unfortunately I was mowing the lawn and Melanie took a message. The agent said she would be emailing me, so no message was necessary.

My hands shook as I signed on and checked my email. It was a rejection. . .but nicer in a way. She said she loved the story, loved the writing, but it just wasn't as "dazzling" as other stories she was considering.

Well, the other agent was still out there. . .there's always one more chance on the horizon. Then the email came:

I loved the intensity that you created between Sam and Pete - I feel like you nailed their relationship 100%. I also really enjoyed the premise - a young adult heroine in (sorry don't want to reveal too many story details) who deals with her life and its challenges with maturity and a good sense of humor (most of the time of course).

But then this sentence:

It is with regret that I am going to pass on the offer of representation.

It was the closest I had ever come to a yes. I emailed her back and said thank you for the feedback and then another email from her:

I would read a revision. I really enjoyed reading this story and was hoping my answer would have been yes. If you do end up rewriting, simply email me back and I'll see what's in my queue at the time.

So, not a complete no. . .

Did I revise it? Yes, I did. right away.

Have I sent it? No. I'm not sure why such the hesitation. I have written the email to her on more than one occasion, but decide to wait and delete it before sending it. It could still be better, is one reason I haven't sent it. How can I make it better? Not sure. . .need real time to be able to sit down and focus and concentrate 100% on it. Another reason is that all writers seem to write all summer and then submit at the end of the summer, resulting in agents being bombarded in the fall with queries. Not a good time to try to stand out.

So it sits in its file in my computer, waiting for me to have time to really focus on it and make it the best it can be and then try to send it when I think maybe the agent has had time to catch up and can enjoy my novel.

And I remember when sitting one on one with an agent at the Cape Cod Writer's Conference that she told me I was further along than any other author she had met with lately. That she couldn't blow any holes in my story, that I was a better candidate than many others and not to give up. And she told me women's fiction is dead (all I had ever written at that point) and to consider making the jump to YA. Women aren't buying or reading as much as they used to. Publishers are going out of business, only accepting books from established authors. To break into the biz as an unpublished author is becoming next to impossible. YA is the way to go. . .

So I wait for inspiration. . .I wait for the big idea that will make this story dazzle. . .Or even the big idea that will create a completely different dazzling story. Something that the agent will find among the 50 other queries from that day that will make him or her say, "Wait a minute. . .what's this?" It's there somewhere and I'm getting closer. Keep your fingers crossed - maybe in the haze of anesthesia next week it will find me, or in the drudgery of day to day tasks and cleaning or in the car while driving to work or as for me - where a ton of my story ideas come from - in my dreams. . .waking up with the story that will give me that yes that I've been waiting for. . .

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


One week of school down. . .how many to go?

I had thought that the first two weeks of school prior to my scheduled gall bladder surgery, I would have some time to catch up on blogging, finishing reading that novel I have been working on for a few weeks (Friday Night Knitting Club. . .for some reason can't get through it!), watching Regis and Kelly and maybe even catch Oprah once or twice. Not a chance. Haven't even had the TV on during the day or picked up a book. I did manage to get a Shutterfly album done, but that was easy - I uploaded the pics in order and hit "auto-fill."

It makes me wonder how I will manage to fit in working 4 days a week. But as everything -we'll adjust. It will mean packing three lunches and two snacks every day (really, why do the kids need snack right before lunch? Know what I do? I just take part of their lunch and pack it as the snack. That's as much as they'd eat in a day if they were home). It will mean getting up at 6:00 instead of 6:30 and will mean packing dance clothes, ice skating clothes and all other after school activities in the car the night before. It will mean fitting in groceries, laundry, cleaning, mowing and errands all on my one day off and weekends. It will mean less time to work on Girl Scouts and other volunteer projects and less time to chat with friends.

I do enjoy work, but I don't look forward to the harried feeling that I will have until we adjust.

Just like I do enjoy feeling well and being able to enjoy a burger, ice cream or pizza now and then, but I don't look forward to having IVs, anesthesia and pain meds to deal with. Ick.

Oh well, I know it's all part of life and part of our responsibilities. I just hope I can look past the transitions over the next few weeks and enjoy the "right now." It will be great having my mom here again so soon to help out and hopefully I'll feel great in just a day or two and can enjoy the visit more than have her wait on me.

Kylie had her first ice skating lesson yesterday and there was a horrendous traffic back up (bridge construction + medical emergency + accident at exit 2) that made us almost 15 minutes late. Since I knew we were going to be really late, I told Melanie to help Kylie put her skates on in the backseat and I would carry her in (we had to drop Melanie off at piano first on the way to skating). When they started to put the skates on, they realized one skate didn't have it's lace. Ugh! (Long story as to why). So I took my left shoe off, threw it in the backseat and told Melanie to unlace it and use my lace for the skate. Unfortunately, Melanie hasn't really ever laced up shoes by herself before and was having difficulty following my visual demonstrations from the front, so I had her pass me the skate and I started it while we were sitting at a dead stop on Rt 130. Dropped Mel quickly at her lesson, then continued on to the rink while Kylie in the backseat kept telling me the lace wasn't long enough. Get to the rink and I see that both skates are laced REALLY loosely, so I quick try to tighten them. Then I carried Kylie in while I was walking without one lace. . .NOT easy. Finally I set her down in the parking lot in her skates while I took off my sneaker and walked in - one shoe on and one shoe off. Lessons had already started and were well under way. If you've never been to Gallo for lesssons, let me set the visual. Tons of kids on the ice. . .tons of parents milling around the sign up table. Confusion since it was the first day and disorganization. Finally I got someone who could help direct Kylie to the right class and off she went with a teacher. I took a deep breath and limped my way up the stairs to watch from the bleachers. Just as I sat next to a nice, warm looking mom who obviously appreciated the stress I was under, I noticed the teacher examining Kylie's skates. . .what? Couldn't she have a sneaker shoelace?? The teacher starts scanning the crowd so I stand up, collect my things, hobble back down the steps and they find me in the crowd. "Her laces are way too loose. You need to tighten them." I utter an apology and a quick excuse, "traffic, rushed, sorry." I spend a few minutes REALLY tightening the laces AGAIN and send her back out. This time the class (the most beginner class she can be in) skates away, all unassisted, leaving Kylie clinging to the wall. Tears start. . .I feel horrible and think I should just take her and go, but then one of the teachers skates back, takes her hand and Kylie's face lights up as she takes her first few tentative steps. Then, she was skating. Class ended shortly after and Kylie had managed to skate by herself for a few of those minutes. When she came off the ice she was beaming (I was worried she would think she was the worst in the class), but she said, "Mommy, I can skate! I want to stay and keep skating!" Made all the stress melt away.

School has gone well. The girls are really enjoying themselves. I'm so lucky to have kids who really like school and enjoy learning. Seems like Melanie is going to have a big homework load, but somehow we'll fit it all in!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Summer

Backpacks are packed, school supplies are labeled and by the front door, girls are clean, nails painted, clothes are laid out for tomorrow and the excitement of a new school year is in the air.

As I combed Kylie's hair after her shower tonight, I saw that her scalp was still filled with tiny grains of sand. I laughed thinking it may be until November before all the sand is our of our hair, off our floors, out of our cars. But each time we see a speck of sand it will be a remembrance of this wonderful summer we shared together.

We spent this weekend soaking up as much last minute fun as possible. Thursday was our last BIG beach day. . . we loaded up the cars and headed for Mayflower Beach in Dennis. In all my years as a Cape Codder I had never ventured to Mayflower before even though it's one of the most popular beaches. The sun played tricks on us throughout the day, hiding behind the clouds, causing the kids to dive under their beach towels and bundle up, then coming back into the open, making us all shed some layers and seek out the cool water.

We finished the day off by finding a completely "rustic" Cape Cod seafood place called the Sesuit Harbor Cafe. Run down with old unpainted wood it looked like a fishing shack at the end of the dock. Inside was bustling - a long line of beachgoers curving around a baby grand piano. There were only picnic tables outside and finding one was tricky, but we finally settled ourselves next to a large group - turned out to be a wedding rehearsal dinner. That is true Cape Cod for you. . .the more rustic, unsuspecting and off the beaten path it is - the better it is. We watched the sunset as we feasted on our fish and chips and BYOB drinks. . .

Saturday was Kylie's first soccer game with Sandwich Soccer. She is on team Australia and actually has the same coach she had when she played for the Y. She knows many of the girls on her team and she showed amazing improvement over the last time she played. Now she actually went after the ball and kicked it in the right direction and to her teammates. We were very proud of her and went for ice cream after.

Saturday night we gathered with several of our friends for a bonfire at Sandy Neck. Lots of good food, drinks and fun was had by all. The kids had the most fun - running, screaming, laughing and playing. They even put on a show for us at 10 pm. . .way past everyone's bedtimes.

Sunday we managed to drag our tired selves out of bed and go to Falmouth to try out the Shining Sea Bike Path - another first for me. Melanie had learned to ride her bike without training wheels at the beginning of the summer and Kylie had been working on it (but wasn't quite there yet), so we thought we'd try it. Melanie was nervous about the narrow, busy path at first but eventually fell into a comfort zone (until she got run over by another biker while she was on foot - ouch!) But we settled her back and and she and her friend Kate actually finished the 4 miles ahead of everyone else.

Kylie pooped out pretty quickly with those pesky training wheels. She needed A TON of encouragement to keep going and we finally finished. Next time as Amy says, we will make a date with our hubbies and do the bike path without the kids. Riding along the coast is just breathtaking and taking a pit stop at a beach with our picnic sounds so romantic. . . :-)

The nine year olds still have some energy after two miles

The six year olds look a bit pooped. But Ben had the easiest and most sought after role - the one who got to ride in the baby seat. . .everyone envied him!

Today was the day we decided to take off from activity and just stay home and get ready for our big first day of school. We had accomplished all the goals the girls set for themselves at the beginning of the summer, except for the training wheels on Kylie's bike. Well, I told her, we have a few hours left, wanna try it? She was up for it, so away we went and within a few minutes she had the balance down well enough for me to let go of her, but then getting her to steer for longer than 2 or 3 seconds wasn't going well. But we stuck with it and an hour later she was riding down the street in a straight line without stopping. Woo-hoo! What an accomplishment. Check out the videos below.

It was truly a perfect ending to a perfect summer.

The money shot

Runs into Melanie

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Summer Reflections

Summer on Cape Cod is my favorite time of the year. The school year is such a busy time for us (as it is for everyone) that by April or May I am longing for some quality down time with my kids. Then all the summer camp brochures start to roll in from school and this year I just tossed one after the other into the trash. I couldn't stand the thought of getting up early every morning and shipping the kids off to camp. I wanted to spend time with them.

That's not to say they didn't do any camps. Melanie was in a 2 week long drama camp and they both particpated in two bible schools (one ours and the other invited to by friends). But that was it. The rest of the time was a schedule of our own making.

The summer started with rain. Lots and lots of rain. I wanted down time? I got it. Two weeks worth of non-beach weather. We played games, watched re-runs of Little House on the Prairie (who remembers Little House being so intense??), got a head start on their summer workbooks, had a ton of playdates with friends we never get to see, attended the the library summer reading activities, raised butterflies from caterpillers and spent as much time using our imaginations as possible. We even fit a circus performance in there.

By Fourth of July, the weather was starting to clear and the residents were venturing out into the world again. Since moving to Sandwich, the 4th has become my favorite holiday. The community spirit is almost overwhelming. This year, we started an new tradition of jetskiing on a friend's pond. One more thing to add to a marvelous day.

Long awaited beach time followed the 4th. We spent as much time as we could at as many different beaches as we could get to. Packing sandwiches, snacks and watermelon became a daily habit.

My mom came on the 14th of July for 3 weeks. She started out her visit by helping out at our Bible School and came with us to swim lessons (getting her first sunburn in many years!). We introduced her to Mr. Parsons at the library (he's a tourist attraction in himself), hunted for mermaids, went on a duck tour in Boston, spent a day at the MOS, took her for her first Barnstable County Fair experience (and first country concert!), took her for her first lobster roll, spent a day in Chatham watching the fishing boats unload and saw tons of seals, and celebrated hers and my birthdays respectively. We also taught her how to play Mexican Train Dominoes and I think she and Melanie would have been happy to skip all the other activities to just play domino game after domino game. In fact she purchased her own set of double 12 dominoes when she got back to Kansas to have her girlfriends over for a game night.

Josh Gracin concert at the fair

Chatham Lighthouse

Museum of Science

A day after Mom left, my cousins from Denver arrived consisting of my cousin Cindy (Mom's sister's daughter) and her husband, Todd and three kids, Ryan, Kelsey and Lauren. Only suddenly Ryan and Kelsey aren't kids anymore. Ryan is 20 and entering his sophomore year of college and Kelsey is a senior this year. (Were they really the same 7 and 4 year old ring bearer and flower girl at my wedding???) Lauren is only 9 and was a great playmate to my girls. They came for a visit, but also for Tom to take Kelsey's senior portraits on the beach. As soon as they drove up in our driveway, we ushered them in and headed straight for the portrait session (gotta take advantage of that good weather and with Tom shooting 2 weddings that weekend and booked solid with portraits, had to make sure their trip wasn't in vain!). The portrait session went great and we headed straight to Seafood Sams after for dinner (also a must see tourist destination for all our guests). While they were here, we showed them around Hyannis, to a Cape League ball game (Ryan is on baseball scholarship in college), took a cruise around Hyannis harbor (saw Ted Kennedy's boat Mya up close), took them to the Boardwalk at high tide where they all jumped and even got Melanie to jump (wow!), spent time at the beach, had a bonfire on the beach with our friends and lots of s'mores, watched Tom run in the Falmouth Road Race, took a drive by a lighthouse, had a family movie night (Fever Pitch), did lots of shopping and had lots of great food and drink. Then their final day the girls spent the day at Heritage Musuems while we sent the boys to Boston for a game at Fenway (sounds like they had a LOT of fun). It was a great visit. The girls didn't want Lauren to leave and we would be more than happy to have them all back again!

Kelsey, Ryan, Lauren, Cindy and Todd (Oh and there's Libby too!)
Kelsey's senior portraits

Todd, Lauren and Mel on the cruise
Ryan and Cindy

Kelsey and Kylie (best buds!)

Things slowed considerably down since our guests left, but somehow we continue to be busy every day. We have still crammed in as much beach time as possible, played tons of games, read books, shopped till we dropped, spent time with friends and with our summer learning. We spent a day at a flea market and ended up with two hermit crabs as pets (who seem to now be hanging tenuously onto life) and a day down cape at the beach, followed by the girls' first drive in movie experience.

Rainbow and Shelly
Getting ready for the drive in movie!

At the beginning of the summer, I had the girls set some goals that they wanted to accomplish over this few months. Both of them had one goal of each: social, academic, physical, emotional and fun. I have to say I am incredibly impressed with how they have grown in different ways. Kylie has made LEAPS and BOUNDS in her reading and math skills just by completing a page a day of her summer workbook. Melanie is more confident on her bike and with swimming. There are a couple of goals left unaccomplished -but we still have a week to go! (Just need Tom to take those training wheels of Kylie's bike and we're all set! She's ready!).

We have also introduced a new system of reward - the Daddy Dollar. The girls now make their beds and brush their teeth every morning without being asked. Their rooms stay picked up and messes get cleaned up without complaint, they help with the laundry, dusting and putting all their clothes away. It's a great system and so far they have stayed highly motivated. They can spend their Daddy Dollars at the Mommy store, buying family game time, movie night, sleepovers or playdates. It's fun to see them working together to save up for a dual sleepover. I've had to print more money to keep up - just like the US treasury! Since they have done so well with it, I've started an actual allowance with them at the end of the week if they have done all their chores without complaint.

One thing I have not accomplished this summer is writing. Usually the summer is good for at least one novel to come out, but I have a momentary lapse of inspiration. But I have enjoyed the vast variety of summer reading material I have completed (another blog story for another day!).

But one of the main themes of this summer has been friendship. We have spent more time with our closest friends than we ever have before and experiencing a variety of new activities. I treasure these friendships and am so thankful to have all these wonderful families in our lives to help shape my daughters' childhoods. Thanks ladies!

Amy, Donna and Wendy. What a fun pic!

Some of the crew at Mashnee Island
Wendy and Maryjo

The girls go back to school next week and another summer is coming to an end. It also signifies me going back to work, although I am having gall bladder surgery September 21, so work isn't starting up for me again until October 5 (hope I'm recovered). So I have two weeks prior to surgery while the girls are in school for time to catch up on those "me" things I haven't done all summer. Hopefully I'll get caught up on my photo albums and maybe, just maybe I'll be motivated to crack that next novel that lives inside me.