Tuesday's Tornado

5.20.2018

I don't know what to say.  The whole experience is still a little surreal.  Each morning I wake up to birds chirping and everything sounding fine until I go outside and relive the destruction.

On Tuesday, at approximately 5:05 p.m., I shuddered at work as I watched dark green clouds fill the sky and the words "Tornado Warning" light up everyone's cell phone.  All my coworkers and I wondered if we should seek a safe place to hide as we saw strong winds, lightening, and hail burst from the clouds through the atrium glass window.  We were scheduled to begin an award ceremony in an hour, and we wondered if the award recipients and their families were now in jeopardy as they were most likely driving to our campus.

The storm ended about a half an hour later with little to no visible damage.  Those that drove and braved the storm had stories to tell about traffic and fallen trees, but we dusted ourselves off thinking that was the worst of it.

After the ceremony ended, I tried calling my mom only to learn that her landline was out of service.  I then called my husband to learn that he couldn't reach home.  Both sides of our road were blocked, and emergency crews gave us the bad news that no one would be able to get to their homes that night.  On the contrary, no one would be able to leave their homes that night either.

I panicked, but what could I do?  My mom left me a quick message with her cell phone to say that she and Little Lewie were okay, but after that message, she wasn't picking up the phone anymore.  I stayed over a coworker's house and attempted to drive home that morning.  Still no luck....

On Wednesday evening, reality hit.  The news reported that an F1 Tornado touched down in our town and then traveled another 9.5 miles, leaving behind a path of destruction.  The Tornado came ripping through our road, and trees and telephone poles either snapped like toothpicks or were uprooted like removing candles from a birthday cake.  The woods behind our house was destroyed.  Our trampoline and swing set took flight and then smashed.  Favorite trees in our yard came down.

Our driveway

Trees in our yard.

Trees that came down from across the street.

Our missing trampoline.


Remnants of our swing set and trampoline.

Trees from the woods by our garage.
When the emergency crews and construction vehicles finally allowed Lew and I to drive home, I couldn't help but cry over the war zone that was once our beautiful neighborhood.  There was car damage, house damage, and everything in-between.  Words can't explain how I felt when I was finally able to hug my mom and son.  They had lived through a tornado!  The storm I saw at work was nothing in comparison to what they had been through.  My mom said she heard what sounded like a freight train, and then she and my son immediately climbed into the closet underneath the stairs.  (We don't have a basement.)  The house shook, the storm windows blew into her bedroom, and her bedroom door kept on banging fiercely as now the wind and air pressure started popping out ceiling tiles in the kitchen.  It was the scariest five or six minutes of their lives, and as you can imagine, my son was beside himself--crying, shaking, and hyperventilating.  (He still doesn't want to fully talk about it.)

The following are pictures of our road  just a few houses down from us (after two full days of cleanup...)  Most of our town and surrounding towns look just like this.








Now that the cleanup has begun, I am both thankful and upset.  We are blessed because we are all safe, and our home was spared.  I am upset, however, because the cleanup will take many, many years before we can forget, and even then, there will still be a scarred landscape.  My son has now lived through a freak ice-storm, several blizzards, two hurricanes, and now a tornado in his nine years of life.  This is not normal.  Climate change is real, and I'm afraid for Little Lewie's future.  I wish climate change wasn't part of a political platform.  It's not a Democrat issue or a Republican one--it's a human one.  The human element in all of this cannot be ignored.

Our electricity is back up and school is scheduled to begin again on Monday, but more severe thunderstorms are scheduled for tomorrow.  I will do my best to comfort my little guy, and my mom and I might need a little comforting too.

The End to Private Roller Skating Lessons...

5.10.2018

Since February of 2015 (at the age of 6), Lewie took roller skating lessons on Saturday mornings at Roller Magic.  In the beginning, lessons were every week, and Lewie started very slowly--barely moving his feet--right foot, then left foot.  In fact, the first few lessons were spent trying to help him coordinate his balance and learning how to get leg strength, so he could actually push and glide, rather than shuffle his feet.

Lewie taking his first lesson in 2015 at age six.


Over time (three years to be exact), Lewie learned how to do scissors and crossovers.  He could skate forwards while squatting and skate backwards.  He wasn't training to be a speed skater or to win some sort of dance routine.  The goal was to simply get him feeling comfortable on skates and to help him learn a few tricks in case he ever wanted to impress his friends (or we wanted to impress our friends).

When he started at six years-old, I never could have predicted how long this "era" would last.  Maybe it would last one year or maybe it would last ten.  From the start, Lewie loved his skate instructor, Ms. Christine, and his lessons became a combination of skate instruction and socializing.  (She was willing to listen to his Minecraft rantings, and so a friendship was born!)  Over time, Lewie talked to her about other things involving school, Cub Scouts, teachers, and friends, too.

Little Lewie and Ms. Christine at his last skate lesson.
When Ms. Christine notified us that she would not be giving private lessons beyond April, our hearts sank.  We had gotten used to our Saturday morning routine, and Lewie loved having the skating rink all to himself.  While sitting in the empty rink, watching him learn new tricks, I couldn't help feeling nostalgic every week.  Roller Magic is the same roller rink I went to during my childhood and high school years.  It was the place where I had my ten year birthday party, the place of my first real kiss, and later, the place where I had one of my first dates with my husband-to-be.

Thankfully, Roller Magic is going strong and not poised to close anytime soon.  While private lessons may have ended, we still have the chance to go to skate sessions, celebrate birthday parties, and even do fundraisers.  (We did one for the Cub Scouts back in March.)  I did place our name on a list should anyone else decide to offer lessons, but in the meantime, I'm sure we'll have no problem finding other Saturday morning activities.  Maybe Ms. Christine will come back some day; we'll wait for the next opportunity.

Our last skate session. Our sadness made it a low energy day.

History Fair 2018

4.20.2018

Every year, Lewie's elementary school runs a completely voluntary academic fair.  In first grade, it was a geography fair; in second grade, it was a science fair; and this year, it was a history fair.  At first, he joked with me and said he wanted to do his project on the history of Minecraft; however, when he knew I was not even considering the topic, he immediately selected Abraham Lincoln. 


I knew why he selected our 16th President.  First, we had read some interesting facts about him in the the book, Abe Lincoln at Last!  It was one of Lewie's favorite books from The Magic Tree House Series, so we set out to read it again.  However, we soon learned that Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce wrote a nonfiction companion book to Abe Lincoln at Last called the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker: Abraham Lincoln. We discussed the differences between fiction and nonfiction and then read the Fact Tracker book to learn more about his childhood, life, and presidency.  The book was a real page-turner.  In less than four days, we read it cover to cover wishing there was more.  As we know, President Lincoln's life abruptly ends after he is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.  When Lewie typed out all his facts, he refused to use the assassin's name:  "I don't want to use his name, Mommy," he said to me rather surprisingly.  "He shouldn't become famous for what he did." 

I was amazed that my nine year-old was so perceptive.  "Okay, we don't have to mention his name," I replied.  "You're right.  He's not the one that's important."

We reread the Fact Tracker book once more to decide what details we wanted to mention, and then Lewie set out to type them.  Since Lewie has been learning to type with the Keyboarding Without Tears Program, he was pretty quick.  I helped him with spelling, and before long, we started formatting the text to make it large enough for his tri-fold display board.  I was so proud to say that he truly typed everything by himself--this was a long way from his handwritten facts last year!



We selected pictures to accompany the text, and the rest, shall we say, is history. (HA!)  Actually, after we made the board, we decided to make a short video, too.  I dressed Lewie in his soon-to-be First Communion outfit, and we put on an Abraham Lincoln beard and hat that we bought from Amazon.  Then, he read the Gettysburg Address.  Although this famous speech is relatively short (only ten sentences), the words are difficult.  Even after practicing it all weekend long, Lewie still struggled with some of the word pronunciation.  However, his mistakes were charming; they were representative of his nine year-old self--a snapshot in time that I will forever savor.

 



The final piece to the project was to teach Lewie how to cite References.  I showed him how to plug in information using the KnightCite Citation Service, and he soon learned how to format both the Fact Tracker book and the movie, Lincoln.  (The movie did show some Civil War violence, but on the whole, it gave Lewie some perspective on this period in history--their dress, their way of speaking, the White House, etc. etc.)

In all, we really enjoyed working on our project this year.  Lewie did a very good job "getting into character," and he learned how history can be fun!  I'm a little sad it's over; I think I'm going to continue seeking out books about Lincoln--what a fascinating life story!

The Wonder Basket

4.09.2018

On Easter this year, I was both sad and thankful at the same time.  I was heartbroken because my aunt had to have surgery, which prevented her from coming to our normal Easter brunch, and my mom was in a car accident on Holy Thursday!  I was grateful, however, because despite the seriousness of the surgery and the car accident, both of them are okay and recovering.  Oddly, my mom didn't feel too much pain on Easter (which was just two days after the accident), but the pain did flare up about six days later.  She's been home recuperating, which will, unfortunately, take some time.

This year the Easter Bunny must have had mental telepathy because he created a Wonder basket.  Only a few days earlier, we finished reading the book, and now Lewie received two companion books and the movie.  His Easter basket, of course, had some chocolate treats and two Roblox gift cards, too, but the theme of this Easter was definitely Wonder.

The Easter Bunny pulled an April Fools' Day prank and hid the eggs over Grammy's house this year.

Overjoyed!

We're still waiting for the perfect time to watch this movie.  We want to give it our full attention.




So thankful my mom was with us to celebrate our annual Easter Brunch.



This Easter may have been "different" from the norm, but we still enjoyed a lovely time celebrating with our small family.  Lewie, of course, has started reading Auggie and Me and 365 Days of Wonder.  I'm so glad this Easter will go down as one that reminds us to love, appreciate, celebrate, and "choose kind." 

Wonder - #ChooseKind

3.31.2018


Image result for wonder the book
Last December, a favorite blogger of mine, Lisa from Two Bears Farm, wrote about the book and movie, Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  I wanted to see the movie when it first came out, but until I read her blog post about Wonder, it never occurred to me that Lewie would be old enough to read the book.

Since I was hooked on the message of kindness and compassion that the story promotes, I made it our mission to read the book.  Shortly after Valentine's Day, I told Lewie we would begin reading Wonder for his twenty minute reading homework every night.  When I made the request, his face lit up:  "Mommy, my teacher is reading the book to us in class."

"She is?" I replied.

"Yes she is, but we're still at the beginning."

Once I found out the book was being read in class, we made a mad dash to read it first.  It didn't take long before we surpassed the class and then read the full 300+ pages.  Admittedly, we didn't read the book every night.   Sometimes we were sidetracked by Lewie's swim lessons, Cub Scouts events, and his history fair project, but we did manage to read 60+ pages each week.

As we took turns reading the book aloud to each other, we stopped many times to process the thoughts, actions, and emotions of each character.  Lewie immediately identified with the main character of the book, August or Auggie.  The ten-year old boy loves Star Wars, his Xbox, and his sweet dog, Daisy.  (Plus, Lewie is born in "August," so he found yet another reason to like the character.)  We learn about August's "facial difference" early on and worry (right along with him and his parents) about how he will fend going to school for his very first time.

Without telling too much of the story, we learn that fifth-graders (along with their parents) can be mean and insecure, but they also can be kind, loyal, protective, nurturing, and thoughtful.  The book tells the story from August's perspective, but in-between, it also tells August's story from the perspectives of his sister Via; his good friends, Jack and Summer; his sister's boyfriend, Justin; and his sister's best friend, Miranda.  It's during these character shifts that we learn about the inside feelings of these other characters, too, and why they act or react in certain ways.

Lewie didn't want the book to end.  As we finished reading the last page, he told me tearfully that Wonder was the best book he ever read in his whole entire life  He reminded me that The Polar Express was a close second.  (Of course, in between these two books have been many other favorites, such as the entire Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne and all the Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems.)

Now, this week, our treat will be to watch Wonder the movie.  I told him that rarely are movies just as good as the books themselves, but I would be lying if I pretended not to be excited about seeing the movie.  Consequently, we also learned that R.J. Palacio has written a companion book to Wonder called, Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories.  It's already on Lewie's wish list.

Seven Days Until Spring

3.13.2018

It's ironic and kind of funny that I'm posting a snowy picture like this for Spring.  The reality is that March has brought us higher snowfall totals than Dec., Jan., and Feb. combined.  In the past week, Connecticut, along with the rest of the Northeast, has been hit by two Nor'easters, which means lots of snow, lots of accidents, lots of fallen trees and branches, lots of power outages, lots of flooding, and quite a few snow days--like this one!


This was a Christmas Tree that we planted in our yard when I was twelve years-old.  It was only four feet back then.

Still, there's an end to this snowy weather in sight; signs of spring are all around us.  Robins have been visiting our yard daily; crocuses, daffodils, and tulips are trying to peek from the ground, and days, especially after we just set our clocks ahead, are longer.  Insects, unfortunately, (especially those abhorred deer ticks) are still around, too.  Evidently, our winter never got cold enough for long enough to kill some of these pesky critters off.

So, in the midst of our second Nor'easter, I'm daydreaming about all that makes spring great.  Here are just a few of the many activities and events I hope to enjoy, and if I visualize them enough, I think they're bound to happen!

1)  All Things Easter  I've already decorated our house with pastel colored eggs, bunnies, and chicks.  Next weekend, we've been invited to an Easter Egg Hunt, and we usually host one of our own--but usually in late April when it's a little warmer.



Our family will go to our typical Easter Mass and then celebrate with family at the Matabesett Canoe Club.  We'll exchange flowers and chocolate and then fill up on more candy until late April or when we've decided it's time to begin dieting for the summer.

A picture of Lewie and his Great Aunt/God Mother at the Canoe Club - Easter 2016

Since Easter falls on April Fools' Day this year, we may just drum up some pranks to pull on family members, too.  Maybe the Easter Bunny will deliver a fruit basket instead of candy or Tootie the Elf on the Shelf will make an appearance instead...

2)  Bike Riding   Little Lewie and I started taking morning bike rides last fall at a greenway near us.  Once the days became shorter, we had to stop, but when the snow melts, we'll be getting prepared for more rides--this time with the promise of warmer days and budding trees.

A Fall Bike Ride - Sept. 2017

3)  Festivals   Spring brings the promise of art fairs and craft festivals.  The best ones, in my opinion, are those that set up outside to enjoy our local parks, town greens, farms, and other outside spaces.  In years past, we've gone to the Meriden Daffodil Festival, The Fairfield Dogwood Festival, and the Milford Artisan Market.  New ones to explore might be the May Market in Farmington, the Gallery on the Green in Litchfield, and the Branford Craft and Community Expo--all taking place in May and early June.

Lewie at the Daffodil Festival - Spring 2013

4)  Day Trips    My mom and I love to visit places in the spring.  Day trips combine our love of shopping along with our love for nature, flowers, and gardening.  This year, we hope to take two special weekend trips.  The first is to the Hildene (The Lincoln Family Home) in Manchester, VT.  The tour boasts a chance to learn about the history of the home while touring its beautiful garden that overlooks the Battenkill Valley.  The description says, "Then suddenly as if on cue, as they did 100 years ago, the peonies 'pop' and the garden is awash in more than 1,000 blooms."   The second trip would be our annual trip to the Newport, Rhode Island Flower Show at Rosecliff Mansion.  The flower show, one of our favorites, happens every year in June with new and interesting themes.  Our day is usually divided with the first few hours at the show and the last hours shopping and dining in Newport.

A display at the Newport Flower Show - June 2016

5) Mother's Day    Mother's Day is a favorite because I usually get a chance to celebrate with a nice dinner at the Hopkins Inn in Warren, CT with hubby, Little Lewie, and my mom.  During some years, the weather has been warm enough for us to actually bask on their patio while overlooking Lake Waramaug.  This year, however, will be different.  Little Lewie will be making his First Communion, which means we'll 1) have to stay local, and 2) consider having some type of family party.  The details haven't been ironed out yet, but I'm starting to see that May will be coming sooner than we think.

Mother's Day at the Hopkins Inn - 2015
I can't help but be thankful for all our happy Spring memories and new ones to be made in 2018. What plans do you have for spring?

WIP Stands for "Work In Progress"

2.27.2018

As two full months have already ended in 2018, I'm already taking notes and assessing my progress.  Am I following my New Year's Resolutions?  Am I making time for me?  Am I finding balance?

Strangely enough when I mentioned the phrase "work in progress," my son already knew what I was talking about.  "Mommy, you mean WIP."

"WIP?" I asked.

"Yes, Work In Progress," he answered.

The phrase, admittedly, didn't enter my vocabulary until I was well into adulthood, but somehow it's part of my son's everyday lingo.  In fact, he assuredly let me know that pretty much everything is "a work in progress."  How did my son become so wise?

As I look at my resolutions for 2018, I'm realizing that they, too, are a work in progress.  I've done well in assuring that I find some time for my son, my friends, and my husband each month, but as work responsibilities increased around mid-February, my blog writing (once per week) took a toll.  The walking, hiking, and exercising in general also stopped.  When those stop, the daydreaming stops, and then my carefree attitude of silliness, wonder, and excitement turn to worry, fear, anxiety, and frustration.  Last week, I felt the symptoms of a cold resurfacing along with my neck, shoulder, and back pain.  If I was looking for a sign to see if my life was in balance, I surely got my answer: NO!!

At work, there were papers to correct, emails to send, reports to analyze, and difficult decisions to be made.  At home, there were mounds of laundry to be done, clutter to be organized, mail to be sorted, and unexpected bills to be paid.  In Cub Scouts, there were den and pack meetings to plan and a fundraising project to implement. And then, out of nowhere, there was a death in my husband's family, an accident (his mom fractured her arm after slipping on ice), and an unwelcome realization that my in-laws may need to move out of financial necessity.

Then, there was one more tipping point.  Lewie's beloved camp director called to tell me that Lewie's summer camp would be closing--permanently.  I cried.  How could this be?  I had already filled out the registration form and put down my deposit!  Lewie was already counting down the days to camp, for it had become his second home!

The last of my free time was spent researching new camps, speaking with directors, and even visiting one.  We "think" we made the right choice to experiment between two different camps this summer, but there are still registration forms to complete and deposits to be made before March 1!

This week, I'm trying to reset my priorities and get back on track.  I won't lie.  I still feel totally overwhelmed, but I'm taking a step back to breathe.  It will all get done.  It will all get done.  It will all get done.  (That has to be my new mantra.)

This is my happy place.  Thinking about hiking with my little boy.
I'm blogging tonight instead of filling out Lewie's new camp registration forms.  I still have papers to correct, too.  I have to shift the balance, and the balance starts back to finding time for me.  It's all a WIP.