Canoeing Down the Farmington River


It's hard to believe that fall is officially here.  I started my fall bucket list this weekend, and I'm happy to report that I've already checked an item off the list - canoeing down the Farmington River. 

For the past two years, I've had the joy of making this canoe trip--first with my best friend and then with my husband.  Last year when my husband and I soaked in the sun while gently paddling through calm waters (that almost looked like a mirror reflecting all the yellow, green, and orange leaves), we vowed that it was time to take Little Lewie on our adventure. 

This year, we didn't break our pact.  Little Lewie proudly took the middle seat of the canoe while Mommy paddled in the front and Daddy took over the rear.  He was nervous at first: "Mommy watch out for that tree!  Watch out for that rock!"  (He gets this, of course, from living next door to a very cautious grandmother--my mom.)  However, fifteen minutes into our journey, the worry melted, and he seemed to enjoy looking down into the water and watching out for wildlife just the same as we did.

We've had a warm and dry September, so many of the leaves on the trees haven't changed yet.

After two and a half hours, our little ride down the Farmington River ended, and we drove to eat a yummy meal at a restaurant called Apricots.  I never ate at this restaurant before, but when I learned that it offered beautiful outdoor seating right next to the Farmington River, I knew it would be the perfect end to a perfect trip. 

The water level has been low this year.

Overall, Little Lewie had a great first canoe trip.  He learned how to paddle with us; although his arms were a little short to try and reach the water without leaning too much to one side.  (We all know what happens when we lean over too much in a canoe!)  After an hour, he was already asking Daddy for his cell phone so he could play Mine Craft; (I guess a canoe trip can get a little boring for a seven year-old.)  Still, there were no video games allowed.  Today was all about enjoying the great outdoors, and that's what we did!  What a perfect way to begin the fall.  So far, we're off to a great start!

Losing Papa


During the first week of September, our dear Papa was admitted into Waterbury Hospital; he had blood in his lungs and was having a hard time getting Oxygen.  A week later, he was transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital as his conditioned worsened, and no one had an answer as to how they could help him.

Over the course of a week, I watched a man full of hope and spirit deteriorate right before my eyes.  Before he took his last breath, he had become a weak and frail man without any ability to speak or look at us.  The doctors promised us he was not in pain, but occasionally he would try to move and clench his teeth, which made me believe he was uncomfortable.  When he took his last breath, all of us were relieved that his suffering had ended.

Papa, my father-in-law, was an amazing man.  He was the very first person I met from my husband's family.  He worked in the home heating and boiler industry and was a man on the move.  He often traveled throughout New England and Long Island doing trade shows, meeting people, and making customers into friends along the way.  He was the kind of person who loved life, and he was passionate about his family, history, politics, and religion.  He was an avid book reader, and his ability to remember facts made all of us want him to try out for the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (U.S. Game Show).  He almost made it too!

Papa was somewhat unconventional in that he loved studying and learning about all types of religions.  He converted to Catholicism for his wife Florence (who was born and raised Catholic), but he loved studying Eastern religions too such as Buddhism and Hinduism.  He would spend hours each day meditating on a pillow in the corner of the living room--so quiet that he often scared me because I wouldn't realize he was there. (He even wrote a book and started a blog on his own spirituality teachings.)  One day I signed the three of us (Papa, my husband, and me) for Tai Chi lessons, and Papa by far became the Tai Chi expert, out-practicing all of us.

In 2006, unfortunately, Papa's health started a long journey of deterioration.  His hospitalization are too numerous to list, but ultimately, he survived throat cancer (having a Laryngectomy--where his voice box is removed and he must breath from a hole in his throat called a stoma), strokes, asbestosis, and heart disease.  Our Tai Chi classes were cut short after a series of hospitalizations, and then as poor Papa's health continued to take a downward spiral, he lost his ability to work (a major blow for someone who loved to work, travel, and provide for his family). 

For years we were on edge about whether Papa would live to see his next birthday, but amazingly, for eight long-years, he did!!  His quality of life was depleted as he could no longer speak normally, travel, or do many of the little things that we take for granted, but nonetheless, his love for life and his family kept him going.  Through doctor's visit after doctor's visit and medical emergency after medical emergency, he SURVIVED. 

I knew Papa for thirteen years (during the time I dated and married my husband); however there is this other vibrant part of his life that I only know through family stories.  For instance, I know that Papa was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, married his high school sweetheart (my mother-in-law Florence) and served in the Navy.  I know he loved FAST cars and rode a motorcycle.  I know he took my husband to a bike shop and helped him build the coolest bicycle in town.  I know he loved swimming and family outings.  I know that being a handsome man, women in town flirted with him, but he always stayed loyal to my mother-in-law through a solid 49 years of marriage.  I know and witnessed that he would do anything for his family, and I'm told that for 49 years of marriage, he never saw his own paycheck.

Papa, Lewis Boyce, Sr.,  was a wonderful man filled with love, empathy, energy, and passion.  My husband has always felt honored to be named after him, and we're both honored that Little Lewie also bears his name.  (In fact, Little Lewie looks very much like Papa did when he was younger.)

Papa, you will be incredibly missed but never forgotten.  You've been an extraordinary role model to all of us in this family, and we will never forget who and what you stood for--love, courage, compassion, hard work, gentleness, honor, and loyalty (to name a few).  You're at home and at peace now...until we embrace again.

My husband's "best man" at his wedding.

Christmas 2014 w/ Papa.


First Day of First Grade


Last week was Lewie's first day of first grade and his first day at a brand new school.  (Last year, Lewie attended a private kindergarten called Surreybrook because our public school in town did not offer full-day kindergarten.)

During the summer, Lewie was nervous about attending a new school.  He never talked about it, and if someone would ask him if he was ready, he would say "no," and quickly change the subject.  I'll admit that I wasn't quite prepared either.  Going from a class size of 6 to 20 would definitely be an adjustment--so would the large school with its own cafeteria, gymnasium, library, computer room, music room, art room, playground and nurse's station.  (Surreybrook only had two places--a classroom inside and a classroom outside--a.k.a. nature's classroom).

On Lewie's first day, we decided he would take the bus in the morning at our neighbor's house and then I would follow him to school to help him find his classroom.  He was worried about going on the bus by himself (he wanted me to come with him), but I reminded him that I would be right at his school waiting when it was time for him to get off. 

I kept my promise.  I arrived five minutes earlier than the bus, and I was right there waving to him before he got off.  I'll admit that Lewie and me were both a little confused.  I took his hand, and we followed the steady stream of teachers, students, and classroom assistants as they all filtered into the gym. 

"What teacher do you have?" a friendly woman asked him as we moved into the gym.

With a little prompting on my part, Lewie finally answered, "Mrs. Bernard."

She led us to a table with other children from Mrs. Bernard's classroom, and there we waited.

The gym, of course, was full of noisy children from all grades (K-5), teachers, and classroom assistants.  Every now and then, it became even noisier when someone from the main office had to make an announcement over the intercom.  Lewie looked petrified, but his teacher was very sweet to him, and little by little, he recognized a few of the school children.  One first-grader (Payton) was from his classroom at Surreybrook and two others (twins Justin and Aidan) were from his preschool at Explorers.

After 15 minutes of waiting at his table, I decided to leave.  Other parents were leaving, and I could tell that Lewie was getting more and more worked up at the prospect that I would be leaving too.  I made sure to notify his teacher, and she helped console Lewie as he cried for me to stay.  I quickly rushed out of the gym as I couldn't let him see me cry too.

Lewie's first day of first grade was emotional for sure, but overall, it was a good experience.  Lewie's teacher sent me an email during her lunch break to let me know that he was adjusting just fine, and when my mom picked him up at the end of the day, he reported that his new school was "GREAT." 

Lewie still doesn't like the bus ride to school (getting tearful about leaving home when it stops to pick him up), but we'll see what happens in a few more days/weeks.  Lewie is now officially a first grader at Laurel Ledge School (the very same school I attended from 1980 - 1985).  Here's to the start of a "passed down tradition." 

Lewie and his two little neighbors (one in fifth and one in kindergarten).

My little boy is growing up!