Thursday, October 29, 2009

Long week.

Thanks to a bus driver strike, it'll be a four-day work week. However, it certainly seems longer. In the three days that I've worked, each one has been a 13-hour day, thanks to newspaper production.

Am I tired? Absolutely.

Am I behind? Most certainly. I owe someone college recommendations, and thanks to the flu and production, my back is against the wall.

Am I frustrated? Definitely.

But my biggest woe? My girls.

I've missed them. I get home by 7 P.M., shove food down the pie hole, try to find out what's going on, and then veg out. As tired as they make me, my girls complete me. Looking at them is like revisiting my own girlhood, back before deadlines and bills and standards and commitments. They bear the innocence that we lose all too quickly.

The highlight of my weekend (which far outweighed trying out the triathlon bike) was going for ice cream after we spent an hour comparing bikes. We went to the kitschy Ice Cream World with its robin-egg-blue stools and flying saucer dessert selection. Watching my girls enjoy the simplicity of ice cream brings me comfort, as does looking at their photo. There was no arguing, no issue of sharing, no efforts to tease--for that would get in the way of dairy heaven.

And lord knows we never mess with dessert. Never.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Having the flu is no fun, but it does provide ample time to ponder about the great mysteries of life.

Such as: Why are all the foods I crave typically bad for me? How can the lovely peanut wreak such havoc and misery for some people? When will I come up with the perfect idea for a video that will win America's Funniest Videos?

I thought I devised the idea today for the video. Thanks to fevers that range from 100.5 to 103, I'd been deliriously lying in bed for three days and next to me the entire time was my loyal man. Eddie. All 7 pounds of hunk and charm. Intelligence and suaveness all wrapped up in a mat of gray hair and triangular ears. At some point I made this hand dog puppet and made a little bark. Truthfully, Eddie's seen me do this before. It entertains him. (So, I have issues. Maybe.) Well, Eddie must've been as bored as well, so he decides to play along. And so, he barks back. Well, Hand Dog responds back, but we go a little farther than usual. He turns his "head," snaps his "mouth," lets out a yelp, tries to nip Eddie. And Eddie? He goes nuts. He starts growling, charging, back and forth across the bed. He's pissed.

Well, since I've been sick, I've kept a tube of crackers at my bedside. And so being the good dog owner that I am, I offered a saltine to Hand Dog, all while Eddie watches, his curiosity obviously piqued. Hand Dog took the cracker in his "mouth." The reaction. Pure Yorkie insanity. Up and down, off the bed. Circles around the room. Back on the bed, attempting to bite Hand Dog and snatch away his treat. This went on until I couldn't laugh any longer, the tears streaming down my eyes. Conservatively, 15 minutes. I'm lucky I didn't wet the sheets. I mean, I have been drinking water continuously for days now, so...

Of course, there were weightier matters that pressed upon my mind, but it was Hand Dog-brain candy such as this that cut through the monotony of being forced into a world of wearing a mask and avoiding my family. Having the flu makes you realize that you do really need people to be happy. It makes you realize that being alone isn't that far away from being lonely. Eddie and Hand Dog can substitute for a while, but they are only just that -- substitutions.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Gift.

My birthday was two days ago. It seemed to follow the course of a typical day. Run at 4:30 in the morning with my girl, go to work, eat yogurt and Wheat Thins for lunch. Later, come home, get my baby girls, get dinner ready. Turkey chili.

We had celebrated in a small fashion the prior night with my parents. Nothing big. Just pizza and store-bakery cake.

So my true birthday looked to be your average Tuesday. That was fine with me. So I went ahead, made the supper, waited for Mark to get home. But after he arrived, something really special happened.

Grace opened her book bag and pulled out this clear plastic envelope. "Look," she said, "I got a book." Yep, you always get books from the library... "Come here," she waved before she patted the sofa cushion. No time to read, got to stir the chili, check the Facebook. "No, I want to read to you." Uh-huh. You want to read to me. "Come on, Mom. Come on, Dad."

I looked at Mark. Is this for real?

Four years ago last month, we took this same child on the long journey to Geisinger Medial Center in Danville. It was for the appointment that we felt extremely fortunate to secure, considering every major medical facility in Philadelphia gave us a year-long wait, at the very least. Some had us waiting 18 months.

At the time, we needed to know why she was flapping her hands, why she was throwing herself on the floor, why she was giving us vacant stares. And more importantly: why had all of her vocabulary all but disappeared. Words she knew were gone. Vanished. Her talking stopped. What replaced it? Screaming. And so we drove to this strange yet massive hospital--replete with its own children's hospital, trauma center, Ronald McDonald home, and constant shuttle service--in silent fear.

Today as I look at the initial report, I recall the caring words that stung harshly no matter how gently Tom Challman, the neuro-developmentalist, tried to delivered them. PDD: Pediatric developmental disorder--not otherwise specified. Autism spectrum. Severe developmental delays. Serious behavioral disorder. Something to be feared: a diagnosis that's not a diagnosis because her disability will never be pinpointed.

Would he predict she'd be mainstreamed with "normal" kids? Probably not. Did he think she'd ever grow up to live independently? Hard to tell. Probably not.

So we threw everything into her. Everything we could. Occupational therapy. Early intervention. Speech. TSS. Behavior modification plans. Gymnastics. Scouts. Art therapy. Some worked, some didn't. But we tried. I remember putting my two-year-old on the little bus for the first time. I'm not sure who cried more. She wasn't even potty trained, and here she was headed to an autistic class some 30 minutes away.

Fast forward to now. First grade. My birthday. Chili on the stove. Grace patting the cushions on the sofa. "I want to read you a story. It's called 'A Big, Big Box.'" OK. Whatcha got, kid?

Mark plunked down on one side; I sat down on the other. She opened the book and read. And read. And read till she finished "A Big, Big Box." And with each page, I silently wept. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. She beamed. I beamed. We beamed. I realized then, for that moment, that this gift will be the most memorable I've had in years. The gift of knowing that my girl will be OK one day. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But one day. That all of this planning and driving and therapy will all be worth it. It has to be. It just has to.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I am officially spoiled and officially smitten. Today was our school's tailgate for teachers, which was held right before the Emmaus-Northampton game.

The camaraderie in the school overwhelms me. Maybe this is the protocol in most schools, and maybe my old school just didn't "get it." Or they once "got it," but they don't any more. But we received t-shirt to wear today to school, and for the first time, I didn't have to pay for a shirt that promoted school pride.

And we were treated to dinner at the tailgate, along with a raffle and entrance to the game.

OK, it may sound hokey and really not all that impressive to a lot of people. But to me, it's the little things that really add up. The environment that surrounds this school is unlike anything I felt in the prior nine years. Granted, there were moments. But this is an overall mood that we are part of a team, part of something larger. And that we all belong. Yup, there are cliques that exist. And that's fine. You'll have those no matter where you go.

But in the end, everyone seems to come together and celebrate. When we got home, I asked Mark what he thought about my little school community, which really isn't that little, but still, compared to corporate. He simply said: "I absolutely love it."

Yeah, me, too. When I leave every Friday afternoon, and I check off another week in, I say a few words of thanks for this opportunity, this gift to work in the community in which I choose to be a part and raise my family.