Hiking through the weekend

I made soup from a Kabocha squash.  I felt all Martha Stewart about it until my family slurped it without enthusiasm only to be polite and I tasted it.  That was a lot of trouble for a very untasty soup.  So, no more.

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My 9-year old spent a lot of time crying tonight because her friend’s bird died today.  I wanted to blot out that sad feeling so she’d not have to feel it.  But feeling sad is okay, I told myself, and maybe some day I’ll believe it.

I don’t really like feeling sad even though I tend toward that emotion.  (See also: Melancholia.)

*

Have I mentioned lately how much I loathe science experiments and crafting ridiculous things like barometers out of modeling clay and mason jars and balloons?  I am the kind of person who does not need to prove any scientific principle with my own two hands in order to believe it.

This is problematic because science experiments are expected in the curriculum Grace is using (through a charter school).   Therefore, I will spend my weekend “spare” time doing stupid science experiments and trying not to grumble.

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An exterminator came this week to spray our house for teeny tiny ants.  Funny because in our Washington house we had the exterminator spray for big old carpenter ants.  I hope there are no medium sized ants in my future.

The exterminator had the nerve to show up at 7 a.m. even though our appointment was at 7:30 a.m., an ungodly hour in itself.

*

I am super overwhelmed by my schedule these days.  My job is a demanding–45+ hours a week.  Grace’s school-at-home is demanding.  There’s the whole feed-the-family and keep-the-family-in-clean-underpants thing . . . I keep doing the World’s Fastest Grocery Shopping trips and throwing together the most random meals.

*

Last summer, I took the kids to Mount Rainier.  It was so beautiful and I agreed to hike a trail with the boys.  I thought it was a short trail, but we trudged up and up and up . . . just around another corner, just over another hill . . . just when I thought the peak was close, the switchbacks appeared, the trail steepened.  I almost died and worried I’d rupture my Achilles tendon, not necessarily in that order.

That’s kind of how my life feels right now.  Up, up, up, around another corner, just a little farther, no, just a lot farther . . . look up and you’ll just see the trail steepening, switchbacks appearing.

I’d like to just sit down and stop.

But I can’t.

You know you’re overwhelmed when catching the flu sounds like an inviting one-way ticket to a day in bed.

Well, no time to contemplate how ridiculous that is because I have to get up in eight hours so I can go to a meeting, so I can meet my husband at the football field to watch my son play and pick up my daughter so I can take her to her soccer game so we can get back home and make stupid science projects and finish the laundry and clean up the house and cook dinner so I can get to bed at a decent hour so we can get up early for Sunday School and church so we can hurry home to finish up school work so we can go get soccer pictures taken so we can rush home to clean up and bake something or cut up some fruit–I sure hope we got to the grocery store at some point–just in time for our  company will arrive.

And then I have to start my four hour shift at 9 p.m.

Unless, of course, I come down with Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever.

Wish me luck.

I remember Thomas Kuveikis

This originally appeared on my blog on September 11, 2006.

You may want to read the comments here and here.  Here are two comments made by people who knew Thomas.

Kathy Kuveikis Kurtz September 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

I did a search today for my cousin Tom as the 10th anniversary approaches. I came across your post and wanted to say thank you for saying all the kind things about Tom. He really was a great person, a wonderful dad, but most importantly a hero. Like people have stated over time, “It is so easy to run away, but to run towards the tragedy” requires a true gift of heroism. My cousin was and is my hero always.

James Schaus September 11, 2011 at 7:36 am

I remember Tom “Las Vegas” Kuveikis as the coolest guy in our class, and a very good friend. Tom had a magnetic personality, and of course had the starring role in our high school movie project “Born to Be Wild…Starring Wheatley’s Wildest Cats”. He was also in our Sha La La music group, and was the only one of us who actually looked good in gold lame. I guess you can take the boy outta Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn outta the boy. He returned to Brooklyn to do what he loved, helping others, and he left this world what he always was, a hero. We are forever grateful for his courage, kindness, and heroism.

* * *

I am participating in the 2,996 Project, for which 2,996 bloggers volunteered to write a memorial for one person who perished in the attacks on 9/11.

Today, on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.

Thomas Kuveikis was known to his family and friends as Tommy.  He grew up in Brooklyn, attending Blessed Sacrament Elementary School.  He later graduated from Wheatley High School in 1971 after his family moved to East Williston.

Tommy studied architecture at both SUNY Farmingdale and the Pratt Institute, but her never completed a degree.  He dabbled in carpentry, a skill learned from his father.  He joined the New York Fire Department (FDNY) in August of 1977 when he was twenty-four years old.

Within a year, Tommy made a name for himself as an aggressive, brave and tough firefighter.  His younger brother, Tim,  once said, “If I could be half the fireman he was, I’ll have a really good career.”  (Newsday.com)   He loved the action of firefighting in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood.  (His father was a legendary firefighter who died in November 2001.)

But Tommy wasn’t just a tough guy.  He came up with an idea to help a poor family at Christmas.  Starting in 1987, members of his squad visited a priest at St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church and ask for the name of the poorest family in the parish.  Then they would contact the family, set up a Christmas tree and provide presents.

Tommy was married twice and was about to be engaged to Jennifer Auerhahn, who described him as “sweet, funny, kind gentle and unselfish.”  His brother Jimmy wrote about him on September11victims.com website saying,

“It was really tough to lose Tommy as he became such a kind, considerate guy over time.  He was not always this way, especially in his twenties, but ‘life’s difficulties’ made him become a great human being.  He was a vegetarian, he gave money and time to Putnam County Land Trust to preserve ’special’ land . . . he loved animals, kids and good people.  Tommy was already a tremendous fireman, working in a poor area of Brooklyn, where he could experience many more fires than the average fireman, just like his father did.”

Kathy Gelman said her brother, Tommy, was “honorable, honest, humorous, humble, humane, and hero.”

In his spare time, Tommy worked as a carpenter.  In fact, he built a steam room in Squad 252’s firehouse.  He had a reputation for not charging enough for his carpentry work.  One day a year, he would donate a day of carpentry to the Putnam County Land Trust.

Tommy had one daughter, Kristen.  He had five siblings, sisters Christine, Karen and Kathleen and brothers, James and Timothy.

Tommy had been a firefighter for twenty-four years and a member of Squad 252 (“In Squad We Trust” was their motto) for five years when his squad answered the fifth alarm at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, at 9:00 a.m.  He was forty-eight years old that day.  CNN footage shows his squad pulling up to the east side of the Trade Center around 9:28 a.m.  The six members of the squad entered the north tower, rescued a man from an elevator.

Two of the firefighters’ bodies were found in the C stairwell 18 days later.  The other four men of Squad 252, including Tommy, were never found.

Today, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.  Thomas Kuveikis is one of the 343 FDNY firefighters who died on September 11, 2001.  He is a hero.  We will never forget.

We will never, ever, ever forget.

iPhone Photo of the Day

Worry-wart

I specialize in worrying.  At least that’s how it seems since I spend so much time doing it.

I distract myself from worry.  But it doesn’t work very well.  Eating cookies doesn’t really put out the fire that worry fuels.

I circle around, worrying without making any forward progress.  I end up back where I started, still worried.

When I was in high school, worry spiraled like this:

1)  Oh no!  I missed a question on my algebra test!
2)  What will I do?  I did not get 100%!
3)  I will never get a scholarship.
4)  No college will admit me.
5)  My life is over.
6)  I will end up homeless, living in a damp box.
7)  My feet will be cold because everyone knows homeless people have trouble getting clean socks.
8)  The end.

I don’t slide down the muddy slope with so much speed these days, but it’s still a mess.

Bad news–the kind of news I can’t change or fix or avoid–sits on my head and gnaws at my brain, nibbling a hole directly through my skull.  Bad new is like a rabid squirrel, in other words.  I can’t shake it and I can’t get a rabies shot.  It grabs hold of my hair and won’t let go.

So, this is what I do.  I gather a crowd.  I pull in every negative situation I can remember–the group of writers who didn’t invite me to join them–the overwhelming paperwork that has covered my desk and requires more time that I have to give–the clothes in my closet that don’t fit–the dark mole on the bottom of my foot that worries me because my dad died from skin cancer–the friend who is inexplicably silent . . . I gather all these enemies around, hug them close and invite them to torture me with their sharp sticks.

Because I am ridiculous and do things that make no sense.

Today, I decided that every time I started to worry about a particular thing that I would say to God, “Okay, look, I am really worried about this but I am just going to trust You to handle it.  Thanks.”

That helped.

I need to remember to do that more.  Every time, even.

Worry, though.  It’s a hard habit to break.

The best part of the day

One of the best parts of living here is that we can leave our house at 6:15 p.m. and spend half an hour at the beach while the sun sets.

And today I found a dead body

Way back in the day when I had a one year old baby I used to write in this blog every single day.  Sometimes twice a day, as a matter of fact.

And now?  That baby turned 9 years old (last Friday) and I can’t seem to spare fifteen or twenty minutes to type 100 wpm which makes exactly, um, 1,500 words.  Right?  I mean, I ought to be able to sum up my life in a thousand words a day, more or less, as my blog header promises.  Or used to promise.  I can’t remember.

This morning after Grace woke me at 9:23 a.m. with the news that the fountain in our back yard was not working, I dragged myself from bed, threw on my bathrobe and went into the back yard to investigate.

The ground was squishy which was strange.  It rained last night which was even stranger.

The fountain had stopped flowing.  The water should have been cascading from three pools into the bottom reservoir, but nothing was happening, other than a faint humming sound.  I stood looking at the greenish water–apparently I need to add something to the water to prevent algae?–and decided to add some water.

I turned on the faucet and used the hose to fill up the bottom reservoir, but the fountain did not flow.

I puzzled over this.  The humming sound drew my attention again and I lifted up the pump and realized that the day before I must have caused it to come loose from the connection–so the water stopped pumping and partially drained out.

So I reconnected that.

Then the water began to flow into the upper pools and it was then that I saw the floppy dead body of a kind of large lizard bobbing in the left hand pool.

And to think that just the day before I swept my fingers through the murky fountain water in search of floating leaves and debris.

At some point, the scary dead lizard paused at the lip of the pool, ready to plunge into the main reservoir.  The idea freaked me out for no logical reason at all and I sprayed it back where it disappeared back into the murk.

I never saw it again.

But I know that somewhere in that fountain a dead lizard circulates. It’s as long as my hand, skinny and speckled from what I could tell.

A more grown up homeowner would have just . . . snatched it up with her bare hands and flung it over the fence where the dead-lizard-eating animals would eat it?

In other news, I survived the first five days of September.  This is noteworthy because I managed to stack up a bunch of things in the first part of the month.  I had a devotional writing assignment due on September 1.  Not a big deal, really, but I should have started writing long before I did so I wouldn’t have had to stay up until 2:30 a.m. completing that task.

Then my daughter’s birthday arrived on Friday . . . but not before we had a meeting with her charter-school teacher.  We went to the meeting, then to lunch, followed by C0ld Stone Creamery . . . followed by a really fast trip to Costco where we bought hamburger and buns and condiments and a birthday cake for the surprise birthday party that night.  (All that running around and I was at my desk ready for work at 1 p.m.)

We planned the party very last  minute because we are pathetic and also, over-scheduled and too busy and losers.  And when I say “we”, I mean “me.”

But it turned out fine and everyone had fun.  The stress of getting ready for the 6 p.m. party after I finished working at 5 p.m. was multiplied times 100 because as I was in the kitchen Grace said, “Hey, I see ants under the sink!’ and sure enough, I looked under the sink and found a convention of ants meeting in the trash cans with a column of ants leading to the corner of the cupboard.

Outside, I could see a scary swath of ants on a coordinated march into my kitchen trash.  I sprayed them all with pesticide and expect that we’ll be dead by next Tuesday from poisoning.  But what’s a girl to do?  Share the kitchen with ants?

So the party began and ended. And I survived even though my hair looked hideous.

Sunday we went to Legoland to continue the birthday celebration.

And now another week has started.  My calendar is filled with arrows and scrawled handwriting but at least I don’t have to think about any more birthdays until February.  I just wish I didn’t know that there’s a dead lizard in my fountain.

Sunset

Between work shifts, I drove Grace down to the beach.  I went to watch the sunset.  She went to jump in and over and through and under the waves.

For awhile, a seagull stood near me facing the waves, apparently watching alongside me.

If we looked south, clouds.

But to the right, we watched the sun slide slowly toward the horizon as the sky turned from blue to orange to pink to blue-gray.

When I say “we”, I mean the seagull and me.

Grace was too busy welcoming every foamy wave that came to shore.

A family arrived at the beach shortly before sunset: three little girls in dresses.

“Can we get wet?” the oldest one asked.

I never heard the answer, but soon two of the three girls were frolicking in the waves.  (The littlest one, just barely toddling was tended by grandma who kept her out of the surf.)  Their little sun-dresses were drenched in salt water and their giggles filled the air.  Mom photographed the entire event with a fancy camera with a big lens.  It looked like they were on vacation.

I was kind of jealous because I am not on vacation.  But I do live near the beach.  Sort of.

And then, a dolphin leaped out of the water, just beyond the waves.

I tried to get a shot of it jumping from waves to air, but missed every time.  And then it was gone.

The sun sunk lower, disappeared over the horizon. The sky brightened to a pink, then faded.

I motioned for Grace to come out of the waves.

It was a lovely hour, that hour before dark.

And then we came home.

No ants, just water

So tonight I went to get my son’s water-bottle from his backpack so I could fill it and freeze it for after-school football practice tomorrow.

Guess what I found?

Ants?  No.

Spiders?  No.

A thank-you note?  No.

Damp math workbooks?  Why, yes, yes, indeed!

And not just one, but two of them with the bottom corner of every page dampened with water.  And they were brand new.

Luckily for us, I happened to have paper towels–a rare occurrence around here–and I painstakingly placed an absorbent strip of paper towel between each page so that they will dry without sticking together.

Some nights I’m afraid to go to sleep for fear of what I will encounter the next day.

Because, what’s next?  A plague of frogs?  Lice?  A whole lot of flies?

I do not plan for the unexpected

I was working last night and headed toward the kitchen for a drink of water.  I detoured through the living room to grab 13-year old Zach’s lunchbox so I could leave it in the kitchen.  I’m forever doing that . . . moving items in small increments toward their ultimate destinations.

Standing in the darkened living room, I pulled the lunchbox from his backpack.  Curious to see if he’d eaten his whole lunch, I unzipped the lunchbox and found a swarm of teeny tiny ants.

I believe I yelled.  I know that I raced through the house with the buggy lunchbox.  I was heading to the kitchen, then realized that was a bad idea and instead I went out the back door.

I dropped the lunchbox on the patio as far from the house as possible.

Then I grabbed the plastic containers that had held his sandwich and cantaloupe.  They were both dotted with teeny tiny ants, moving in their aimless busy paths.

I washed the ants down the drain with soap and hot water while smashing as many with my fingers as I could.

Immediate crisis over, I realized I should check the backpack and there I found more teeny tiny ants.

I checked his cleats.  More teeny tiny ants.

Teeny tiny ants on the living room chair where I’d rested the backpack.

Teeny tiny ants on the kitchen floor where I emptied the backpack.

Teeny tiny ants here, there and everywhere.

I knelt on the tile floor and smashed ants with my bare fingers.  They were so teeny tiny that I couldn’t feel them.  (Later, however, I would feel phantom ants on my skin and itch all night long.)

After I’d smashed all the teeny tiny ants and assured myself that the ants were eliminated, I went upstairs to mention this to my son.

I told him to be sure to close the plastic containers after lunch so ants wouldn’t be attracted to his lunchbox.

He said maybe he shouldn’t have left his backpack containing his lunchbox on the ground near a trashcan during football practice.

I said please close the food containers when you’re done eating.

Then I scratched myself and wondered if I’d get teeny tiny ants in my granulated sugar.

Today he was ant-free.  But I’m still itchy and twitchy.

First day of school (woes)

Tomorrow is my baby boy’s first day of school in a new school in this new city in this new state.  And I’m freaked out.

He’s 13 and he seems pretty unconcerned about school supplies and the dress code and about finding his way from class to class.  And I’m worried.

And why in the world are they starting on August 15?  It’s still summertime in my head.  It will be summertime in my head until Labor Day.

My baby boy won’t stop growing too fast and it makes me feel like I’m running after a bus which hasn’t noticed that I’m trying to get its attention.  (Did you ever miss a bus because you were just thirty seconds too late?)

I bought school supplies–random ones, because I had no supply list and also because I discovered I had twenty-four boxes of crayons when I was packing up and moving here–and managed to not buy any pencils (Ticonderogas only, please) because I thought I had boxes of them.  Which I probably do, but where?  Where are you, Pencils?  And why weren’t they on sale at Costco, as usual?

I did find two stray pencils which I tucked into his notebook.

The rest of the kids–75% of my kids–are not going to school tomorrow.  They are all going to be doing school at home–the twins have one last year of homeschool and Grace is enrolled at a charter school which allows her to do school at home four days a week.  (They’ll all start in a week.)

So,  it’s not like I”ll be lonely.  Or free.

But I’m full of anxiety about my baby boy’s first day of eighth grade in this strange land of palm trees and ocean breezes.

And now I’m going to make his lunch because I am most certainly not about to pay $5.25 per school lunch.

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