Sunday, November 20, 2011

When Good Trees Go Bad

We knew when we moved here to Idaho that we would experience a different climate.  We have actually looked forward to the cooler weather and actual seasons, not just the hot and less hot seasons of Phoenix.  The leaves and trees and all the colors are absolutely amazing!  I feel like a kid sometimes in that I am awestruck by all the new scenery and sights and smells. 

Credit: Roadsidepictures/Flickr

It's all such a refreshing change of pace from the dry, brown desert we have lived in forever.  FOREVER.  FOR. EVER.

It's funny though, how things that look so cool on the surface can suddenly be not so cool in reality.  Like the changing leaves, for instance.  They are a canvas of colors and patterns that are so enjoyable to look at while we walk along the river banks.  When they started falling one by one from the tree in our front yard, they became individual pieces of art that the boys studied and collected.  Then we had an extremely cold night.  And when we opened the door to go to school the next morning we found this:

A Naked Tree!!  Just days before we were wondering why our neighbors' trees were all but bare, while ours was still full of green, healthy foliage!  Then BAM!  Just like that we have a 4 inch deep carpet of leaves covering our yard and driveway.  Apparently, our neighbors' trees have figured out that if they disrobe a little at a time, their owners can keep up with the raking and the bagging.  Our lovely tree  decided to give us a hearty fall welcome with a full-blown, leaf-filled ticker tape parade!  Which we missed, by the way, because it happened at night!  While we were sleeping!!   Either our tree isn't a very good event planner or it is an accomplished practical joker.  Either way we were shocked at how many leaves the thing had once worn! 

The first thing Little Man wanted to do was make a leaf angel.  I know!  What a great idea, right?  I was hormonal cold and grumpy when he asked and we were running late for school so I told him no.  Why did I say that?  I have no idea.  I just blurted it out.  It wasn't a complicated request.  It's not like he asked if we could snowshoe to Russia or use the leaves for toilet paper (oh, don't think he didn't think about that option, he's totally into Survivorman and Man Vs Wild.  It's only a matter of time until he tries it, believe me!).  It wouldn't have caused any harm.  What was my problem?  Gees, I've got to loosen up! 

Rather than start raking the minute I got home, I decided to ignore the leaves and check my email save the leaves for Little Man so he could have some fun before we disposed of the giant gift from our tree friend.  He and a few friends rolled around in them, jumped in them, made piles our of them and threw them for about an hour before they decided they were done. 

  (Leaf Angels)

The weather man kept saying it was going to snow, so Big Man and I left the leaves where they were for a few days, hoping that maybe we'd get enough snow to cover them and then they could just kind of hibernate and compost over the winter, thereby saving us from clean up duty.  No such luck.  We had no snow.   Just some rain.  Which made the leaves wet.  And heavy.  So the blower didn't work and we had to rake. 

Two hours and eight giant, stuffed bags later we had a clean yard again.  Actually, when I think about it, the tree kind of did us favor.  There are still a lot of trees around town waiting to shed the last of their fall foliage.  Everybody else has been raking intermittently for 3 weeks now and many probably have one more big clean up to do before the snow hits.  We got ours done in one shot.  Maybe this tree ain't so bad after all. 

So yeah...the fall colors and changing leaves are beautiful to look at, but not as much fun to clean up.  Still - I'd rather rake leaves in the crisp fall air that pull weeds in the hot desert sun any day.

PS - I forgot to do the Hexbug Giveaway, tune in Tuesday for the winner!!   

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day Thank You

(Grandpa Russ)

I have two grandfathers who fought in World War II. One of them, actually my step-grandfather, has spent the last month and a half in rehab after some health problems.  He's not happy there, it's not his home.  So we visit him often and ask him to tell us stories about his life.  He's told us some of his war stories. They are at the same time both interesting and horrifying. He barely touches on the part where he landed on the beach on D-Day. He said he could not even begin to describe the things he saw, other than there were hundreds and hundreds of bodies lying in the sand and the water. I'm guessing the scenes from Saving Private Ryan barely touched on the reality of what those men experienced that day. Despite the nightmarish memories that were part of his experiences as a soldier, Grandpa Russ shares some good experiences too and very fond memories of the years after the war that he spent working for the Veterans Administration in Idaho. That's where he met my grandmother. ; )

I have never met my other grandfather. It's a long story. Suffice it to say that he chose to isolate himself from his family and my mother has not seen him since she left home as a teenager during one of his rages. Now he lives about 30 minutes from where I recently moved and I have to make the decision about whether or not to try to establish a relationship with him. He flew bombing missions during the war. Apparently his experiences were pretty harrowing too, as my mom talks about episodes he had after the war that lead me to believe he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His issues were so severe that in the end my grandmother had to leave him for her safety and the safety of her son. My mother had already moved out by then. So I don't know alot about him, other than the fact that my mom says he was such a fun person to be around when she was little and she remembers a very different person than the man he became later in her life.

Why am I telling you all this? I guess I'm pointing out the contrast in how each man was able to handle the experience of war. One managed to find coping skills that allowed him to get on with his life. Will the memories ever go away? No. They are a part of who he is now. But he was able to comparmentalize and put those painful thoughts in a box in his brain somewhere where he didn't have to face them all of the time so he could work and focus on raising his family.   He is such a good man and accepted us as his own grandkids from the minute we met him. 

Grandpa Bill( I guess that's what I would call him), my mother's real father, obviously had a harder time putting those memories to rest and they affected his ability to raise his family and lead a happy life.  His family suffered greatly because of that. And so began the dysfunction that has impacted more than one generation.  It makes me wonder if things would be different for us now had people known about PTSD back then and had he been able to get help in dealing with his emotional trauma. Doesn't matter I guess. We can't go back and change things.

We can change things going forward though. We can ensure that there coninue to be programs and tools available for our warriors, so that regardless of what stage in life they find themselves, they and their families will have the necessary skills and ability to cope. Please donate your time or your dollars to a worthy nonprofit that supports our military families. The burden they carry is heavy to bear. Let's do all we can to let them know that we are willing to help lift that burden however and whenever we can.

From our family to the many veterans and military families stationed all over the world: We value your service and sacrifices and are grateful for your willingness to endure whatever hardships with with you are faced to serve this wonderful country.   Thank you. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Independence Day

Ya know what this is?

It's Freedom, Baby!!  This was the first day EVER that they got to ride their bikes to school without an adult.  They were so excited they barely took time to give me a wave before they rolled down the driveway and wheeled off to their new school with the neighbor kid.  It was a great moment for all of us.  A real taste of independence for them and a realization for me that it was okay to let them have a longer leash.  Not to mention the rush of gratitude I felt that we are blessed to have found a good, safe neighborhood so the boys can have these kinds of experiences! 

I have to admit that the first morning was bittersweet.  I had mixed emotions.  My initial thought was that for the first time in 6 years, I wouldn't have to fight the traffic in the drop-off lane or worry about getting to the school early in the afternoon so I could find a parking space!  Whoo-hoo!  Then the emotions kicked in and started talking to me.  And my Mommy Heart felt kind of sad and heavy for a few moments because it heard this:

"Your little boys are growing up - they aren't little boys anymore. You're should savor these moments because one day they're going to drive off and not come back for a long time.  They'll be busy creating lives of their own and you'll be lucky to get a phone call once in awhile."  Wow.  Even typing the words out makes me want to start crying.  I cannot begin to imagine a life without some kind of daily interaction with my boys.

I remember what my life was like before the boys came.  And if I'm honest, there have been moments where I wistfully yearned for just a few of those "before the kids" days.  The days when I was free to do whatever I wanted to do, how and when I wanted to do it.  Usually those yearnings came after a week of cleaning up kid poo and vomit.  Or maybe after the 15 hour drive that left us all wondering which genius thought a road trip would be "fun."  But those wishes were fleeting thoughts that only lingered for a moment.  A grubby little hug and a wet smack on the cheek chased those wishes away, making space for warm thoughts and smiles about the life I have now -  "with the kids."

So while days like "the first day we rode our bikes to school" may evoke feelings of uncertainty about my future with them, I am trying to not dwell on what I will be missing and focus instead on what I have now - two really great boys who are enjoying their new home, happily pedaling through the neighborhood and looking for adventure.  And who doesn't need a little adventure once in awhile?