Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Greetings from the Leper Colony

A few years ago there was a story in the news media about how a girl had leprosy, and frankly, over the course of the past few weeks, I thought they would be writing a new story about me. I had visions of being sent to the Valley of the Lepers a la Ben Hur (which reminds me, I love to watch that movie at this time of year).

I don't know what the heck was going on, but starting three weeks ago, all of the skin around my nose and mouth was super dry, itchy, and flaking off.

Don't you love it when I share all of our family's medical woes with you?

Stay tuned because tomorrow I'm going to talk about Finn's chronic constipation.

Just kidding.

Maybe. It's a big issue around here.

As I was saying. My face.

I have very sensitive skin. But this was beyond anything that has ever happened to me before. Wait. Except for when I lived in Florida and had chronic ringworm on my arm. Gross. I'll stop with that.

Anyway. The face.

I got a cold and had the normal Rudolph nose. In fact, people told me they'd never seen someone with a cold have such a red nose. I was at work and I wonder if their tissues irritated my sensitive little nose. I usually use Puffs Plus with lotion. Anything else, like the tissues my Mother buys from Amway, are horrible. In fact, I call my Mom's tissues "the tissues from Russia." No offense to the Russians.

So from the red nose, the irritation just traveled. First my lips got really chapped and then all around my mouth. I moisturized and used lip balm like a fiend to no avail. It spread to my neck, up my cheeks and even to my eyes, which swelled up and really accentuated my wrinkles.

That was upsetting. The accentuated wrinkles.

More lotion. I stopped wearing makeup. I tried not putting anything at all on my face. I went out into public and to an NHL hockey game WITHOUT MAKEUP and we were sitting right behind the glass. I think players were cringing as they skated by.

Look. These guys just caught sight of my face:

The situation was dire.

One evening my face was burning so badly I thought I was having an allergic reaction. I panicked! Was this the onset of anaphylactic shock?

What was I allergic to? Shellfish? I hadn't eaten any. Peanuts? None. Reality TV? I couldn't figure it out.

And frankly, I never did know what caused it. Finally, one day I thought, "Hmmm, I should try a homeopathic remedy on myself." When the boys are getting sick, the first thing I do is dose them with whatever remedy is appropriate. Apparently, I can't remember to do this myself.

So wouldn't you know, I used some Calendula gel and took some Calendula pellets and had relief within the hour. I continued the treatment for two days and it was obvious I was on the mend at last.

Mothers. We can't ever seem to take care of ourselves.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Perfect 10

Today was Declan's 10th birthday. And I can't believe it. I mean I can, but I can't. Which makes no sense whatsoever, I realize.

On Friday night, Declan was supposed to have a sleepover party with three friends. Unfortunately, in shades of last year, he was sick and we'll have to reschedule the party for next weekend.

Last year, Declan's birthday fell on a Friday. The last few days leading up to the party looked something like this:

Wednesday, March 25--drive to Denver for Finn's appointments on Thursday; go to museum; hang out in park; go to Chuck E. Cheese.

Thursday, March 26--wake up at hotel, massive snowstorm starting; drive to appointments; realize we are in a blizzard; search for and find a hotel that takes one hour to get to even though it is only five miles from where we are; remain trapped in hotel overnight.

Friday, March 27--Declan's birthday! Wake up at hotel to 18 inches of snow and frigid temperatures. Mommy eventually digs out the car and we make it home at lunchtime. . .right as Declan gets the stomach flu. He vomits for the rest of the day. He rallies around dinnertime to open presents, but that's pretty much it. Fortunately, his party is scheduled for a later date.

Here was this year's itinerary:

Tuesday, March 23--A giant snowstorm races through our valley and wallops Denver. We are scheduled to drive to Denver on Wednesday for Finn's appointments and to to an Avalanche game. Declan goes snowboarding with Tara and Garvin, but doesn't feel well. In a very sympathetic mood, we make him go to soccer practice. In the snow. When he comes home, we realize he has a fever.

Wednesday, March 24--We head out despite the inclement weather. Allegedly, all of the roads are open. And they are--most of the way. At one point we sit for 45 minutes as the result of an accident, but we finally make it to Denver an hour late. When we get there, three hours later, they can still see us because all of the Denver people cancelled their appointments. The only people who drove through the weather to keep their appointments? Us, a family from Avon (in our valley) and a family from Wyoming.

We picnic in the car and go to the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. Very cool. Declan spends most of the time lying on a bench.

We go to the hotel, which is very nice, thank you American Cancer Society, and rest before going to the Avs game. We all enjoy the game, but Declan is clearly not himself.

Thursday, March 25--We drive home. That night, Declan has such a coughing attack, he vomits. We make the decision to cancel the Friday night sleepover party. Declan wonders if he is allergic to Denver.

Good sport that he is, he plays along with the friend Finn has for a sleepover instead (I had invited a friend for Finn to keep him occupied during the party, but the parents didn't get my message saying the party was off. . .). Now, with a little rest, we're hoping Declan is on the mend at last.

He's a good kid. And now he's 10.

Some pictures of our Denver adventure. . .

In the cockpit

With Bob, our tour guide in the cockpit

Big wheels


Marveling at our hotel

Finn meets Bernie the Avalanche dog during a bathroom break

The LA Kings warming up

We were up close and personal to the action--right behind the glass. We are very lucky to have friends who have such great seats and who generously hand the seats out when they can't use them!


Celebrating an Avalanche goal!

This old-fashioned safe was on the same floor as our room. The safe was manufactured in Hamilton, Ohio, which is near where I went to grad school at Miami University in Oxford.

Birthday morning--Feeling better and opening presents.

Cutting his own cake

A little look back. . .

You are brand new:

First day home from the hospital. I wondered if the baby acne would ever go away.

It did.

You are 1:

You like cake.

You are So Big.

You like presents. You don't like to wear socks.

You are 2:

You love Thomas the Tank Engine.

You think Easter egg hunts are the greatest thing ever.

You play endlessly with the eggs. When you go to Grandma's house, you ask her to get out the "fragile eggs" from Italy. Being a Grandma, she says OK, and lets you play with the fragile eggs, even though you are 2.

You twist your hair when you drink your bottle at night. I still see you do this when you're mindlessly watching TV (and when you have hair).

You are 3:

You love Larry Boy. You are so adorably cute it breaks my heart.

However, you cannot endure our Happy Birthday singing.

Larry Boy seems panicked.

You are 4:

You get your first "big boy" bike.

You love to play Candyland. And you cheat while doing so.

You love Buzz Lightyear and all things Toy Story.

To infinity. . .and beyond!

You are 5:

You love Spider-Man.

Your birthday falls on Easter. You are still beyond cute. And yet you are also a stinker. You are somewhat challenging at this age.

You are 6:

We celebrate with Grandpa in Florida. You seemed so grown up. Looking back, not.

Your love of hockey and all things Blue Jackets is already years old.

Finn wears those socks now. And he has long outgrown that stick.

You are 7:

Your first birthday in Colorado. It was a hard adjustment. . .

. . .but you made lots of good friends.

You are 8:

You love Harry Potter.

You love to snowboard.

You shave your head in honor of your brother for the first time.

You are 9:

We go to Park City to visit your cousins for spring break and celebrate your birthday early with them. You still love snowboarding. You still love hockey.

You are sick on your actual birthday. You do manage to open your presents. Imagine that.

You have a group of friends we call The Posse. I try to envision you all in high school.

You are the Perfect 10:

Old enough to raise money for a good cause.

Emotionally tough enough to endure shootouts.

Young enough to be delighted by animals and puppies.

Old enough for some independence, but still young enough to be excited about birthdays and presents. And still young enough to ask for 10 kisses from your parents to celebrate being 10.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Great Outdoors

Thanks for all of the excellent comments on my volunteering post. It helps to know I'm not alone!

I have a post up at Rocky Mountain Moms today, if you care to come join me!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Free Education Isn't Free

No one locally reads my blog, so I'm going to vent a little here. I know you love it when I do that. Sort of. Maybe.

Anyway, this year I am on our PTA board. I didn't volunteer to do it. I'm not that selfless. I agreed to do it because I was asked. And because no one else wanted to do it. In fact, no one wanted to be in any PTA position this year. The four of us who comprise the board pretty much did it because if we hadn't, our PTA would have been leaderless this year.

Colorado is crazy low in state funding for schools. Like 45th out of 50 or something like that. I looked it up several years ago and was appalled at how low it was. And yet we still moved here. Go figure. With that said, I love the school the boys go to. It's about 50 yards from our house; I like the teachers; I like the people we've met there; I don't mind giving my time (within reason) to be there and make it a better place. In addition to being on the board, I'm the PR chair, I'm on the Green Team, a part of which is the Healthy Food committe, which I co-chair. I provide food for teacher conferences and teacher appreciation week. I help set up and clean up for the meals we provide. I coordinate a team of people who provide treats for every teacher on their birthday. I volunteer at the school dances, either Eamonn or I chaperone field trips, and between the two of us, we attend and provide food or supplies for every class party. I volunteer at the big end of year party/festival. I'm also on a district committee to overhaul the school lunch program. Blah blah blah. I volunteer a lot. I do it because I think it's important, not because I want people to say, "Wow, she's a good volunteer." I do it because the school needs it. But it takes a lot of time.

And parents' time is what is needed. The school is good, but it, like any school, needs help from parents to make it great. It needs help from parents in a time capacity and a dollar capacity.

So as I said, our school funding isn't great anyway, but with all of the decreases in property taxes these past years (it's a trend that will continue), we've got to make up the difference somehow. We somehow have to help students pay for field trips--each year we receive more requests for financial assistance--help teachers provide materials for their classrooms, fund various curriculum like science and the greenhouse, etc. The money has to come from somewhere. And as much as I'd like to conjure it out of my. . .own wallet, I can't.

Our PTA meets once a month. There's always a lot to talk about--school safety, upcoming events, how money is being raised and spent, activities updates, etc. We try to have our meetings last no longer than 90 minutes, but sometimes they run long. I don't like that, but it's not like we're sitting around talking about doing our hair and nails--we're discussing what needs to be done and when to raise the money we need to provide our kids with the education and opportunities we'd like them to have.

Our meetings have low turnout. Lower than any other school in the district. Last month, the board and one other person was there. Please. The ridiculous thing is that we are the largest school in the district, other than the high school.

What gives?

I was curious. So we developed an online survey and sent it out to parents. They still have another day to respond, but as of tonight, about 96 people have responded. Which is actually better than I expected (we have more than 480 students). So far, I'm the only one to have seen the results. And I feel annoyed. And I'm going to address some of the ridiculous answers here in a sarcastic and annoyed manner. I'm venting to you because I can't vent in this way to the people who wrote these things. Instead, I'll have to write them a nice letter addressing some of these issues. I'll have to say something like:

Dear Parents,
In the PTA survey, you indicated that having on-site childcare would encourage you attend PTA meetings. Good news! We do offer on-site childcare. We hire two babysitters at each meeting to entertain your children. So please come join us.

What I'd really like to say to address their many misconceptions, including childcare is:

Dear Parents,
Are you fricking kidding me? Clearly you haven't opened your child's backpack or read an e-mail from the school yet this millenium because if you did, you wouldn't have responded "The PTA does not keep me informed of its meetings or activities." We sent home flyers. We posted signs. We sent e-mails. The principal puts it in her newsletter and on her e-board. And still, you do not come to meetings. You accused us of wasting paper, so we switched to e-mails and a sandwich board in front of the school. And yet, you do not come. Please tell us what you need. Door-to-door solicitation? A tattoo on your child's forehead? Maybe we should drive through the neighborhood with a bullhorn at midnight? You tell me what works for you because I'm just sitting around waiting to do EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED. And as for childcare? We've offered that for years. All I have to say to that is DUH. Read the flyer/e-mail/notice board/the principal's e-board. Should I go on about all of the different ways you can read this information that we basically force feed you?

I loved your suggestion that there should be more working moms and dads on the PTA board. I do wonder how much more they should work? Our president works two jobs. Our VP works two jobs. I work two jobs. Our treasurer must be a slacker though--she only works one job. Yes, we are all moms. How strange. Oh wait, no dads even come to the meetings. We put up a big DADS sign on the door with a Ghostbusters symbol on it. Do you think that drives them away? We should probably stop doing that.

To the person who commented, "I heard people don't get along at the meetings." I don't even know how to address that. No one is strapping on the boxing gloves and duking it out. Although I think that sounds like fun. Do we always agree? No. But I can't think of a single example in the 3 1/2 years my kids have been here that things got out of hand, or even became disrespectful. I don't know what happened in the past, but maybe if you came to a meeting instead of talking about what you heard, you could make a decision for yourself.

To the people who commented they don't like the current leadership, then get off your ass, come to a meeting and volunteer to be a part of the leadershp team yourself. If you're not a part of the solution, you're part of the problem. I hate it when people spout cliches.

To the people who commented it seems like it's the same group of people doing all PTA activities, well, yeah! It's because no one new seems willing to volunteer. I do realize that at the beginning of the year, you filled out that questionnaire saying you'd help with X, Y, Z event. Well, maybe when we e-mail you, you could actually respond and agree to help instead of not answering.

To the people who commented we're clickish and political, my response is how do you know? I didn't even know the other people on the board before we started working on this together. We don't hang out. We've grown to like each other as we've worked together, but we're not friends. Our only common thread is PTA and realizing there wasn't anyone else who was willing to do this stuff.

To the person who said PTA dismisses ideas and doesn't listen. Are you the same person who says that PTA doesn't know when to stop discussing something and let it lie? Let's decide--are we over or under-analyzing things? When someone brings up an idea and we don't accept it, after much discussion, why do you think that is? Do you think maybe it's because we've been living and breathing this stuff 24/7, know all of the background, history, and financial issues involved, and maybe you don't because you just came to this meeting for the first time? Like when you suggested there should be a Spanish program. You mean like the one that's offered after school? That's not to say we're not interested in new ideas--we are. We'd love it if people had ideas instead of just coming in and being critical when they've never even been to a meeting before. Or paid attention to anything the school sends home.

Many of you said you don't have time to be involved. Seriously? Because, I do. I have oodles of time to spend doing unpaid work when I should be making a living. And really? You don't have one hour a month to help chaperone a dance that will raise money for YOUR CHILD to take a field trip or have an assembly or get a new science book? You'd rather be home on the couch instead of chaperoning a dance? Guess what? Me, too. Because as much as I'd like to say I LOVE to spend all my time at the school, I don't. And I feel resentful that you ATTEND PTA events with your children, but you can't seem to volunteer for even a 20 minute shift to help out and take the burden off the same 15 people who always volunteer because they know if they don't do it, no one will.

Maybe PTA should just disband. Maybe when your child's teacher submits a request for 20 students to attend a science/nature hike with the science school, we should shrug and say we're out of money because no one would help. During Teacher Appreciation week, we'll have to tell teachers no one volunteered to bring a meal, or set up, or clean up. We can just order pizza for them like we had to last time. But wait, we can't order pizza because we're out of money. They can brown bag it. That's the way to show our appreciation.

In the survey, you indicated that you see PTA as important to our school. Then act like it. Because the same 15 parents cannot keep shouldering the burden for the rest of you. We work. We have kids in sports. We have to make dinner. Our kids have to get to bed. All of it. So my response to those excuses? Boo Frickin' Hoo. Unless you're a single welfare parent working three jobs and raising five kids by working the night shift at a factory, you've got no excuse. If it's important to you, you'll make it work. You're tired. I'm tired. We're all tired. Some of us are even sick and tired. But if each person volunteered just one hour a month, maybe we'd all be a little less tired.

This free education that you love, and take advantage of, in the district's top school? It ain't free. It costs time, it costs money, it costs a little blood, sweat and tears now and then. Someone somewhere is working THEIR ass off so your kid can have these things that make our school so great. So instead of casting around petty accusations about what you THINK or what you HEARD goes on, maybe get off your ass and come see for yourself. And if you don't like it, do something about it instead of bitching via an anonymous survey. Want to come in and overthrow the current leadership board? Bring it. We'll hand you the keys to the castle as we run to our cars shouting, "So long, sucker!" It's a thankless job and frankly, all we get is grief. Hello--we are VOLUNTEERS, not your paid servants, not your whipping boys (girls). You think you can do it better? To a person, I think we'd all say you're welcome to it, so put your money where your mouth is.

So, see you at the next meeting, Big Talker?


Wow. I don't even have PMS. Just think if I had written this then!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hockey Champs!

I know I already Facebooked about it, but dang, I'm pretty darn excited for these guys. . .and Katie!

Declan is kneeling on the left side of the banner.

We just got our game schedule for the state championships starting Saturday. I hope I'm more relaxed than I was at playoffs where I could barely stand to watch. I was trying to record the game, but my hands were shaking so badly that when we watch the game years from now, I think we'll wonder if there was an earthquake in Aspen that weekend.

In reality, we'll probably have our asses handed to us in the first game, but these boys are the first local Squirt C team to ever make it to playoffs, let alone win it and then make it to the state championships.

The facility in Aspen was amazing and there was lots to do for the siblings, which was a relief. Finn spent the long hockey weekend on the climbing wall, in the pool, watching movies on the portable DVD player in the lobby, and mooching candy off of people.


Declan coming out of the locker room for the final game.

Heading out on the ice to warm up.

Declan and his fellow goalie, August.

Finn with the players who shaved in his honor.

Declan and Coach/Team Manager Eamonn

A few of the moms celebrate being able to breathe again.

And finally, after all of the games were finished, Declan got to spend some time on the climbing wall.

We figured he'd earned it.