Jul 30, 2014

Rest In Peace

7/30/2014 — cori

My dear, sweet Jadziu passed away Monday afternoon.  It was exactly 1 year and 1 week after my Bapchie's passing last year.  He was 94 years old.  He suffered from Alzheimer's for the past 13 years, but that's not what killed him.  It was a blood infection from his pace-maker.  He was otherwise still healthy and strong.  Always so strong.  He has cheated death many times before.  The one word that best describes him was: fighter.  He lived through throat cancer, prostate cancer, the war, pneumonia, car accidents and probably even more things that I'm not even aware of.   He still had the strongest handshake at 90+ than anyone I know.

Ed, as he was known, was born in December of 1918 or 1919, no one is really sure because the town hall where the records were kept burned down.  He was 1 of 6 kids born to Polish immigrants.  He grew up in Ellington, Connecticut where they farmed tobacco.  He was forced to leave school in the eighth grade to work full time on the family farm.  He adored his mom, but from what I remember, his father was a very hard person.  He joined the Army before Pearl Harbor.  He re-enlisted and served 6 years, 5 of those years were spent in WWII.  He was stationed in the Pacific Front in the Philippines.

He married my Bapchie when he returned home from the war.  He was six years her senior.  He never talked about the war that defined him so, much like every other man who served during that time.  They just never spoke about it.  He borrowed $8,000 from his father-in-law to buy their first and only house. It was in pretty bad shape when he bought it, but he fixed it up and continued to do so for the next 63 years they lived there.  He worked his entire life as an auto mechanic at Town Line Auto Body.  He could fix anything.  He was still climbing a massive telephone pole they had in their back yard that one end of their outdoor clothes line was attached too in order to fix the pulley system that was attached about 15 feet high off the ground - at 90+ years old, blind, with Alzheimer's.  Very little stopped him. They had two boys, six years apart.

I never lived close to my Grandparents but we always visited each other.  My Dad says that my Jadziu became a softer person once his grandkids were born.  I am the oldest of the 6 grandkids.  I remember asking him tons of questions about the war.  I know that he still suffered from headaches related to the war even now.  He lost his eye sight years ago, but he never let that stop him.  He would listen to books on tape and still read the paper every day (he could only see through his peripheral vision).  He read every National Geographic ever printed.  That is how he became so smart even though he never finished school.

This was the last time I saw him, a year ago at my Bapchie's funeral.  I had the chance to spend a few hours alone with him while my Bapchie was in the hospital.  He could never be left alone.  He was fiercely independent and his medicine often made him more confused and ornery.   The only time that seemed clear to his memory was his time in the war.  He thought I was female soldier coming to flirt with him.  He asked me all about my 'outfit' (what unit I was in).  I was making stuff up on the fly, it was hilarious.  We also sat outside in some lawn chairs for a while out on the driveway (they lived right off a main road and he often liked to watch the cars go by).  We were sitting very close to my car and he started asking me all types of questions about what type of engine it had.  His mind was still sharp as a tack when it came to cars, he could still tell you exactly how to fix any problem it had.

Jadziu was a life long Boston Red Sox fan.  That is why he is laughing in this picture.  My Dad placed his own Yankees ball cap on Jadziu's head which made him laugh and he said this was the only time you'd ever see this.  He never lost his sense of humor.  He was so funny.  Last year when the kids and I visited him, Bennett was trying to relate a story to him.  Jadziu responded with, "Don't ever tell a story if you don't have to."  It was pure Jadziu.  I traveled to Connecticut for his 90th birthday 4 years ago. He was still suffering from Alzheimer's but would still have moments of lucidity.  As I was about to leave to catch my plane he looked me directly in the eyes, held my hands and said, "May the Lord bless you and keep you."  My eyes still tear up  to this day with that recollection because I knew he knew exactly what he meant.  The thing he didn't know was that I send my kids off each morning with that same prayer.  My favorite memory of him is when I was a little girl and I would sit on his lap in the kitchen and we would eat oyster crackers with peanut butter on them together.  This big, strong man putting tiny globs of peanut butter on teeny tiny crackers...all for his grand daughter.

Thank you for the memories, Jadziu and for your legacy.

Jul 29, 2014

Proverbs By Bennett

7/29/2014 — cori

Sometimes Bennett comes up with the craziest things.  Lately it has been his 'proverbs'.  He likes to put on the air of a wise old man and say in a most humble, serious voice, "I'd like to share a wise saying with  you..." and so it goes.  Here are some of the 'wise sayings' I am subjected to day in and day out:

Sometimes a one-eyed cow can see things a two-eyed cow can't.

Sometimes there are cracked potato chips and whole potato chips.  The cracked ones sacrifice themselves so others can eat a whole potato chip.

Sometimes to make an omelet, many eggs have to crack.

Sometimes a light bulb can lead to light, like the light in the refrigerator when you're getting chocolate milk.

Must I go on?  You see the theme here, don't you?  Food.  He has all his major, life revelations around food.

Jul 20, 2014

Bonus Points

7/20/2014 — cori

I just totally earned a TON of bonus points with my boys this weekend.  Daddy and Chloe went camping so the boys and I got to spend a bunch of extra time together.  I knew they would think much higher of me if I were to suggest we go see a 'boy movie'.  I NEVER watch 'boy movies'.  Ok, I confess, I did just recently watch The Amazing Spiderman 2 and lived to tell about it.  It wasn't as bad as I had assumed it would be.  Normally, when the boys want to see a comic book movie or action/adventure movie, it's Chuck who takes them.  Afterall, he is a former boy, he gets it.  He still likes that stuff.  Me - not so much.

I checked the listings of the local theater and found Godzilla to be one of the only options of acceptable movies to go see.  So I suggested to the boys we go check it out.  Their immediate response was, "Are you sure you want to see this mom?"  A reasonable question given their intimate knowledge of my likes and dislikes.  "Sure, " I said, "I just want to do something with y'all that I know you would enjoy."  They were stoked.

Of course going to our favorite pizza joint before the movie only served to raise my cool factor that much higher.  And then there was the movie.  I really thought I could make it through it.  I figured how bad could it really be?  There really aren't words to describe my feelings about that movie.

As soon as the show was over and we were walking out the boys asked me, "So, Mom, how did you like it?" eager for my response.  I didn't want to kill the mood, so I just said, "I'll have to tell you later. How did you like it?"  Of course it was incredibly awesome to them in that gory, destructive, loud, unrealistic way boys see the world.

Once we get in the car Gavin is like, "So was it the sensory overload that got to you or all the destruction?"  Oh how he knows me.  "Both, actually. And the fact that is was so completely unrealistic.  But I can see how if you love science-fiction, that movie was probably really cool to you." Then Bennett piped in with, "At one point I was about to tell you that you didn't have stay in here and watch it, you could wait outside for us, but then this really awesome part happened and I forgot to tell you and figured you'd probably want to see that part."  How thoughtful.

The boys really were so super thankful that I would do something with them that they knew I really didn't like.  Because it's not about me.  Rather, it was about me doing something that I knew they really liked and I like them so, why not put up with an unrealistic, loud, poorly acted, loud, destructive, loud, violent, loud movie for 2 hours.  It was the least I could do to show my love.

All of parenthood is a sacrifice.  It starts off that way and never ends.  It's brutal at the beginning, sacrificing your sleep, all your free time, all your money; their needs are instantly more important than your own.  After a while, they become more self sufficient and independent needing less and less of us. That's the plan.  They shouldn't need us as much, but want us.  I recently heard a quote that said: "It isn't a sacrifice unless it costs you something."

I sacrificed my sanity, peace of mind and eardrums for my boys so they would know how much I loved them and wanted to hang out with them doing what they loved to do.   Their love tanks are full now. They were so incredibly thankful all day and kept thanking me over and over.  It truly does feel better to give than to receive.

The Teen Whisperer

7/20/2014 — cori

This blog seems to have turned into what I have learned through the course of being a mom.  Since I've never been one before, I'm forever learning.  This holds true for every phase.  I've never been the parent of a teenager before.  I rather like it.  At times it is maddening, I must confess, but most of the time it is very enlightening.

I'm lucky to spend most every day at home with my kids and my neighbor kids.  I've always been drawn more to kids than people my own age.  I feel like I can relate to them better.  If I'm ever at a party, I'm the one sitting at the 'kid table'.  I just love picking their brains and listening to how they see the world.  I truly find it fascinating.

What I've learned from my time with teens is this:  

1.  They WANT to spend time with adults, specifically their parents.  BUT they want to do this on their own terms.  They want you there.  Just being there is super important.  They don't want to feel forced into having to spend time with you, they want to chose to.  And when given the choice, they will normally chose you.  They are mini grown-ups or grown-ups in training.  The way kids have always learned is by mimicking what they see.  It's no different when they are in adolescent bodies.  Just being there goes a long way.  Being there for the mundane happenstances of life carry much more weight in the long run than those few 'quality time' experiences.  They don't want more stuff - they want more you.

2.  They WANT you to respect and trust them.  This goes a LONG way.  All the hours of time you spent teaching them as children, the difference between right and wrong, politeness, manners, how to make good choices, how to pick friends....they remember these things.  Trust that they are drawing from what's inside them, from the tools you gave them when they were young.  Kids, no matter what their age, will always live up to your expectations.  If  you set the bar low, it shows you don't really have faith in them and feel that your nagging and constant reminding are the only way they will listen.  If you set the bar high, they will reach it.  I've witnessed this too many times to not believe it.  Also, you HAVE to respect them first before they will respect you.

3.  They WILL mess up - let them.  This is the training ground for adulthood.  Let them fail while they are in the safety of their own homes surrounded by people who love them.  Yes, their failures have bigger consequences the older they get and those failures are scary.  But just like learning to ride a bike or learning how to walk - they learn from their many failures.  We HAVE to let our kids fail and we have to be there for them when they do.  We can't fear failure otherwise they will.  Don't hide your past failures from them.  Talk to them about what you learned from your bad choices when you were their age.  Talk to them about the mistakes you still make and how you learn from them.  They will see you as human, just  like them.  Kids often set their parents on a pedestal and feel they do no wrong.  Mercy and compassion go a long way.

4.  They WILL be moody - let them.  They have never been this age before - you have.  Remember what it felt like to be stuck in this new, adult body with emotions, feelings and thoughts you've never had before.  It's weird, scary, confusing.  They need time alone to make sense of all the massive change that is happening in and around them.  Give them time alone to process all of this.  The older more mature person needs to always be more understanding and patient of the less mature.  This is what love does.  It doesn't take their moodiness personally.  It doesn't get offended when they want to be alone.

5.  Your opinion still matters. They want your affirmation.  They want to know they're on the 'right' path.  BUT they don't want to be told how to get there, they want to figure it out for themselves.  The most loving thing to do is to let them.  Encourage them along the way.  Build them up.  Let them know they are on the right track.  They miss valuable lessons by you just telling them what to do at this age. Problem solving is a very important skill to learn.  When they ask your opinion, give it honestly and in some cases delicately for issues of the heart (such as boyfriends and girlfriends).
6.  If you want them to spend time doing what you like, you have to FIRST take an interest in what's important to them.  This is a big deal.  Most parents and teens have vastly different interests and chances are, you are really not into what they are.  For example, my boys are super into Minecraft.  I could really care less about it.  But I need to show an interest in what they like because it's a part of them.  It shows I value them, all sides of them.  They love to show me the worlds they build, they love to talk to me about techniques they used.  I try to ask pertinent quetions.  We've even set up challenges where they build something, make a rubric and then Chuck and I 'grade' each person's design based on the rubric they came up with.  

7. They want you to LISTEN to them.   Really listen.  Stop what you're doing and listen.  Put down the phone, turn off the tv, focus all your attention on them.  Sometimes they don't know how to explain how they feel so their actions show their feelings instead.  Sometimes they want to talk for hours - at 11pm when you want to sleep.  Sometimes we don't want to hear the brutal honesty of what they want to share.  Take the time to listen and not talk.  The action of listening seems to be a lost art.  We love to tell others what we think.  We love to jump into a conversation and try to relate.  We love to make sure our point of view is understood.  But listening involves being silent, giving space and being there. Sometimes your teen may just want to you there so they can vent.  Other times they may talk just to get their thoughts out in the open making them not seem so scary or confusing.  And then there are times when they talk and really, truly, honestly want to hear what you have to say - but they have to initiate. Don't offer advice, help, opinions unless prompted to do so. 

Jul 16, 2014


7/16/2014 — cori

Oh how I love summer, let me count the ways:

1. no schedule
2. lots of sun
3. kids home
4. eating outside
5. more time with friends
6. lots of play time
7. perfect weather
8. the smell of fresh-cut grass
9. fields of cornstalks waving in the wind
10. working in the backyard
11. birdsongs
12. sunsets at the lake
13. the heat of the sun on my skin

These past few days have been the epitome of all that summer is for me.  I just love having the kids home!  It's not so much that they want to do stuff with me, but it's the fact that they want me there, they want to hang out at our house and just spend time together.  Sometimes it looks like us just sitting on the sofa reading a book together. Other times it's lazy evenings eating ice cream and watching our favorite summer shows (yay Food Network Star and American Ninja Warrior!).  The last couple of days it looks like neighborhood friends coming and hanging out at our house all day long.  How I love that!  I love that everyone wants to be here.

It's not so much that the kids friends are here that I love, it's who they are that I love.  They are the sweetest people.  We have a high school freshman, junior and senior that think it's fun coming to hang with us all day.  Not to mention my own 3.  And eating all our food.  It's always busy here around lunch time.  They spent one whole day playing hide n seek in the house.  When that game ran it's course they felt the need to consult with the activities coordinator for more exciting ideas.  I am pleased to announce that I did have a few acceptable activities up my sleeve for just such an occasion.

They ended up spending the rest of the afternoon demolishing my family room.  I suggested building obstacle courses and racing through them.  In my mind's eye, I saw them outside doing this particular activity.  But they preferred the indoors so I gave them cart blanche reign over the family room.  There's not much that can get hurt in that room.

Not once did anyone turn on the tv or complain of being bored.  I loved watching this creativity in action.  This is what I love about being a stay at home mom.

When the excitement of that started to wane they were ready for more ideas from the idea generator. Thank God I had time to think.  Most of my ideas were great 7 years ago, not so much anymore.  I need to start thinking like a teenager again.  A cool one.  The next idea I came up with was a shot in the dark, but I knew my kids really enjoyed this game so I thought everyone might.  They ended up playing the communication game that we always enjoy around here.  It was so fun to listen and watch as the neighbor kids struggled through what at first glance is an apparently easy game to play.

After whittling away the rest of the afternoon everyone said goodbye only to start again the next day.
Yesterday they began by building an obstacle course for me to go through.  Then somehow, I'm still not exactly sure, but I was the one building the obstacle course and timing them as they raced through it. I was deemed an expert course builder, a title I hold dear.  Next on the agenda was a bike ride up to the convenience store for junk food - sans Mom.

They all made plans to meet back at our house once it was dark (making it like 9:30pm) for serious play time.  There's nothing quite like a game of hide-n-seek in the dark.  They also added a new game that the freshman learned at church camp - Murder in the Dark.  Since it was a church camp game afterall, I felt it would be acceptable.  Thankfully, they modified it to be a little more non-violent, so instead of using your finger to mimic slicing the victims throat, they chose to tap the victim on the head.  I was so proud of them.  Chuck got to enjoy the all the dark games while I got to enjoy the peace and quiet of reading alone in my room.  I was exhausted after a full day of play.

Today looked completely different from the other two days.  Chloe and Bennett played with the little 7 and 5 year old girls from across the street.  I just love how all the ages can blend together and play so well together.  Each family genuinely looks out for each other and each other's kids.  My heart is full.

Jul 7, 2014

The Driving Vacation

7/07/2014 — cori
You know how we always enjoy a good road trip?  Well....this one was a doozy.  I think it was a little too much road and not enough trip for us.  Out of 13 days of vacation, we drove for 8 of those days. Chuck needed to get back to work to just take a vacation from his vacation.  But all those miles logged meant more time together building memories and living experiences that we can talk (and laugh) about for years to come.  Here's a recap of the drive, uh, I mean, vacation.  We went to:

2 countries
2 provinces
9 states
6 hotels
1 cabin
3,951 miles

Our first stop was Niagara Falls. 

We got to have double the fun with Grandparents there.

After four days, we made it to Maine, specifically Acadia National Park.

We walked on the sandbar that gives Bar Harbor it's name. 

The best hike we've ever had was the waterfall 
hike up Dorr Mountain on a rainy afternoon.

The trails were so beautifully built.  
We took three incredible hikes all three days we were at the park.

We kayaked in the Atlantic Ocean

Just something beautifully unique.

On the top of Cadillac Mountain at the eastern most edge of the continent. 
This is the first place in the continental U.S. that witnesses the sunrise each morning.

Chloe admiring the Atlantic Ocean on her perch at the edge of the world.

Those mountains in the background are called Bubble Rock North and South.
Their innocuous name belies the treacherous climb to reach the top.  They
don't seem very bubbly when you're grasping for breath and holding on for dear life.

Quaint, picturesque Old Town Montreal.  You really do feel
as if you just went back in time and are walking the streets of Paris.

A picture perfect sunset in Terrebonne, Quebec.

A policeman took this family photo of us.  That is lake Ontario in the background.   This policeman walked up to me as I was taking this picture and told me that no photos were allowed in the park.  I instantly clicked my camera off, put it down and tried to not act/look guilty as charged.  He looked dead serious, but apparently he was joking cuz in the next breath he asked if he could take our picture.  I guess I don't understand Canadian humor.

My astute planning landed us in Toronto on Canada Day.  NOTHING is open on Canada Day.  No grocery stores, Target or shopping malls. Zilch. So, hypothetically, if you happen to need underwear because you only packed enough for 10 days and not 13, you're in trouble. Recycling is an option.  But so is buying over inflated laundry detergent at a gas station and begging the baseball team of boys hogging the washing machine at the hotel to squeeze a load in between all of their dirty clothes and then sitting there the rest of the night in front of the washer/dryer like you were in college.  Soooo...we went to a lot of parks, skipped alot of rocks  and found a movie theater.  Thank God restaurants were open or we wouldn't have seen much of Toronto from our hotel room.  Canada also offered us the most exquisite food of our trip.   Every time we see The Amazing Spiderman 2 we will think of you Toronto.

We had a little mis-understanding between us and Canada on our first stop at the border.  The intimidating guard asked us if we had any weapons on us, specifically spring-loaded knives.  Chuck said "no".  But ever the rule follower and not wanting to hide anything from nice Mr. Guard I asked Chuck, "Don't we have that camping knife in our glove box?"  Mr. Guard did not like me talking to Chuck or opening the glove box.  He started acting very nervous and asked Chuck, "What's she saying, what's she doing?"  It was a little perilous there for a while.  I learned the hard way that camping knives do not qualify as spring-loaded.  That is helpful to know if you're ever crossing a border and feel the need to divulge every last detail in the hopes of being completely honest and forthcoming.  Also, never open a glove box at a border crossing, they won't think you're looking for your Swiss Army Knife that you thought you left in there after your last camping trip.  It might make them a little upset.  I'm just passing along helpful tips for travelers here.  After that little incident I promised to never to say a word at any more border crossings from now on.  I am mute.

Let's just say we continued to have border crossing issues, even after my declaration of muteness.  This time I didn't open my mouth and insert my foot, instead, I just simply forgot my purse at the hotel - after we had already checked out.  I just happened to not remember that little fact until after we got in line to cross back into the US from Canada at Niagara Falls.  Ooops.  There are no u-turns in the border crossing lanes.  You get drilled (read: interrogated, motives under suspicion, questioned about your goings and comings and gambling habits and your entire itinerary)  leaving the country.  You get drilled coming back in and you in turn get drilled trying to leave it again, 15 minutes later.  If we didn't look suspicious, I don't know who does.  That was a good day for all of us.

Lastly, Bennett kept us laughing for days with his keen observation.  Once we'd been driving in Canada for about an hour, Bennett looks up from his book and was like, "Are we in Canada?"  We answered in the affirmative.  He then went on with, "I didn't know they had fields here."  What??!? Explain yourself Bennett.  "I thought it would be all snowy and cold."  There was nothing to say, we just shook our heads in utter amazement.  However, we did enjoy pointing out all the fields to Bennett the entire rest of our trek through Canada.  They have LOTS of fields by the way.  And in the winter, they are filled with snow, so you probably can't see them.  But trust me, they are there.  I've seen them.

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