Monday, December 31, 2012

Words do not adequately express...

As I sit here trying to compile a summary of 2012 for the "books", I am struggling to see much of anything beyond the last couple of emotionally charged weeks.

I try to make a conscious effort to focus on the positive (I HAVE to or I'd plunge headlong into my deep dark hole of depression, especially this time of year!) but in light of recent events, it's significantly more challenging to do so.  Suddenly, compiling a list of favorite photos, resolutions for the new year, or special stories from the past year seems so trivial.

The tragic circumstances that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary on that fateful December day in Connecticut shook my sense of security and threatened my faith in humanity.  As the mother of 6-year-old myself, I could see my dear, sweet, Bug in the faces, stories, and names of those precious children who lost their lives that day.  That little boy who bravely announced "I know karate" and said he would "lead the way out" to safety...that was so something Nathaniel would do/say.  My little firefighter would surely set up a control center to save the day!  It tore at my heart to think of those parents who put their babies on a school bus that morning and would never see them bouncing off the  bus and down the driveway at the end of the day.  Or ever again.

Then I woke up on the morning of Christmas Eve.  Excitement for the upcoming family time, Santa's arrival, and the new treasures to behold saturated the air.  Opening up my laptop and checking in with friends on FB, I learned that tragedy had struck again.  This time in my backyard.  Evil had made its way into my little world.  Suddenly it wasn't just a headline on Yahoo! or a ticker running on Fox News.  This was people I knew, members of a "family" I am a part of.

A madman had decided to shift the world's axis by setting a fire at his home, and laying in wait to open fire on the first responders as they arrived to answer the call for help.  I read the updates from friends and family in the public safety community and tried to make sense of it all.  Information trickled in.  Conflicting accounts were received from all directions.  Slowly the details emerged - two firefighters had been shot and killed, two more wounded, and a police officer had been injured before the gunman turned the gun on himself.  Seven homes were destroyed as the fire the crews were responding to continued to burn.  Seven more families affected.  Seven more families who lost everything.

My husband has been a 9-1-1 police dispatcher at the Monroe County Emergency Communications Department for nearly 27 years.  My parents served the community as EMTs for Hilton Ambulance for more than a decade.  My husband, my two step-sons, and many friends and family are proud members of local fire departments and wear many hats in various other public safety arenas, both paid and volunteer - paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police officers, dispatchers and more.  Therefore, this incident struck close to home, both geographically and emotionally.

As my husband responded to work that Christmas Eve morning, to lend a hand with the extra call volumes at 9-1-1, he learned that one of the two firefighters killed at the scene was a 19-year-old coworker on his shift.  Tomasz Kaczowka was fresh out of high school, so young and barely given a shot at life.  He died doing what he loved most and left behind a closely knit polish family who now struggles with how to go on without him.  Lt. Mike ("Chip") Chiapperini  had a long career as a firefighter and past Chief with West Webster and Lieutenant with Webster Police.  He was a mentor to many and left behind a wife, two small girls, a son, and a legacy of helpfulness and giving that anyone could be inspired by.

The challenge in all of this has been in helping my little fireBug process this tragedy.  As a 6-year-old born to serve in public safety someday, Nate has taken all of this very hard.  I'm not sure he necessarily gets it in its entirety...but he definitely understands that many people are sad, lives have been lost, and heroes are being recognized by an amazing brotherhood of firefighters from all over the country and the world.

I've been trying to follow his lead.  I've given him the option of watching the tributes, seeing the photos, reading the stories.  When he's had enough he goes to his room to play, turns on the Disney channel in the other room, or sits quietly with me.  We've talked (though he doesn't say much) and he knows no question is a silly question, no concern is a small one.  Any questions he may have or feelings that might arise are fair game, 24/7.  I hope that's enough.

As we watched the funeral of Lt. Chiapperini yesterday, Nate watched silently.  He would look at his father and I, seemingly to gauge our reactions so he could then adjust his own.  Every once in a while, he would turn away, resuming play at his personal emergency fire scene (set up with his matchbox cars and Playmobil guys).  Then, in his best 6-year-old tribute, he lined his fire guys up in front of the TV.  One by one, he placed them purposefully, with honor and intent to pay their respects to the fallen hero.  My heart swelled with pride at his simple, innocent gesture.

Nate's a smart little guy.  He feels strongly, deeply and is wise beyond his years.  The born firefighter instincts in him are undeniable and with his recent anxieties and realities of death and dying, I don't want to over do this heavy experience.  But I also don't want to deny him a grieving process I think he has a right to and needs.  He's seen his Daddy cry more in the last week than ever.  Everywhere we go our friends and family have been affected by this tragedy.  However, it is my hope that he doesn't just see and feel the sadness and extreme loss left behind by our fallen heroes.  Instead I hope to impart in him the amazing generosity, heart warming camaraderie, and extreme kindness that has been displayed by our community here and across the nation.

I joined the FB page Prayers and Support for Webster Firefighters and have been moved daily by the outpouring of love, support, and encouragement.  People throughout the community and across the nation have stepped forward with donations of hotel rooms, gift cards, and more for the first responders coming to our area for the services this weekend.  Strangers have bought rounds of drinks, paid for meals, and delivered food and tokens of gratitude to their local public safety agencies.  It has been truly amazing.  I encourage you to check out the page to see some of the most heart wrenching and inspirational stories and photos shared from all over the country.  It's awe inspiring.

I could go on and on, sharing stories of pain and loss, hope and inspiration, but I've been rambling on long enough (without any clear direction) so I shall end with this:

These are words shared at the funerals of Chip and Tomasz that struck me every time I heard then and that speak volumes about the intense brotherhood suffering from this great loss:

"Rest easy Brothers...We'll take it from here."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Take your "child" to work day

As I was leaving for work yesterday morning, I went around giving hugs and kisses to my boys.  Alex decided he wanted me to bring him with me to work but knew instantly that that wasn't happening because he had school (among other reasons).  He ran into his room, and handed me "blue bear".  He said, "Mama, this is Alex...he'll be me so you can have me with you today".

So I brought him to work with me.  He rode into work on the front seat (what a PRIVILEGE that was!)

"Alex" was keeping my schedule
Then I decided to put him to work.  As I went about my day, I took photos of "Alex" doing office duty stuff and sent a couple of them to Dave to show Alex.

He answered a few phone calls
Then took a short coffee break
Then I assigned him my newest grant and he got down to writing.
We broke for lunch...
Then I had him make a few copies.

I walked away for a MINUTE and what do I come back to?  He's on FACEBOOK!  Shame on you, "Alex".
It was fun to have a reminder of Alex with me all day at work.  When I got out of work and met Dave in the parking lot to exchange the real Alex, I gave him Blue Bear and he got to snuggle with him while he napped all the way home.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another First...Cub Scouts!

The big milestone when Nate turned 6 was that he could finally join Cub Scouts.

He had been asking to join since he was in Pre-k (4 years-old), but was told he'd have to wait until 1st grade.

So first chance we could (first week of school in his 1st Grade year), we attended a recruitment meeting and got him signed up.  Within a week he was at his first meeting.  Within two weeks he had his handbook, his official uniform, and was learning the boy scout handshake and code.

Now we are in full force with meetings and events and outings -  Pack meetings, Den meetings (I still am not entirely sure which is which), community service projects, badge merits.  It's crazy.  I'm learning a LOT.

Boy Scout trip to Albion PD for a tour...
Here the Sgt. is teaching the boys how they get fingerprints from crime scenes.
At this age (Tiger Cub), the family is very much involved.  Most things we do have a strong focus on parents and siblings participating, too.  Which is good, honestly.  If not for that, Nate would be out of luck because I am usually the one taking him to these things and I always have Alex with me so we all get to benefit.

Making friends
As he gets older and boy scouts becomes more independent, I will worry.  But in the meantime we are meeting some great people, seeing and doing some fun things, and hopefully Nate will learn some incredibly important life lessons.

Monday, November 12, 2012

When skies are grey...

Yesterday was a horrible day.  From the very beginning I was stressed, feeling ignored and struggling with the overwhelming tasks that lay before me, knowing I had but one day to accomplish them all.

Stress boiled over into a blow out with my husband and eventually I wound up on the back step reduced to a pile of tears with my head in my hands and a pit in my stomach.  It was a typical "how did I get here" type of moment.

It was then, at my lowest point, when I heard the sliding glass door slide open and my 4-year-old tentatively asked, "Mom?".

I turned around, trying to hide the tears and my puffy eyes.  I forced a crooked (fake) smile and realized he was walking down the stairs clutching an Elmo doll.  He handed me the fuzzy red monster and said, "here, this is for you...I thought Elmo could feel you better."  Then he quickly disappeared up the stairs and back inside.  *sigh.

Moments later, the door reopened and Alex reappeared.  He clamored down the stairs in his bare feet and said, "I forgot this."  He then hugged and kissed me and just as quickly disappeared inside again.

These "visits" continued for the next 15 minutes or so.  Each time he tip toed quietly down the stairs, he'd offer me a feel good token of some sort, study my face for the smile he was desperately trying to earn, then disappear.

On one visit, he brought me the music box from his bedroom to play music "to feel me better".  Then, he brought me two books (from which I could choose) - What Firefighters Do and Clifford's Apple Picking Day - only to leave them both for me anyway.  He brought me his favorite fuzzy blue snuggie, then thought I could use a pillow for my head.  Finally he handed me a notepad/giant pencil so I could "write a letter or sumfin".
Each visit was sweeter than the last.  My heart swelled.  My tears eventually dried.  My heartache all but faded.  My smile turned from forced and fake, to genuine.  

While I couldn't help but worry that a child his age shouldn't have to feel that way, see me cry, or be responsible for making me feel better...I couldn't help but marvel at his empathy.  His loving care.  Just when Alex drives me to the brink with his bad behavior and current tenuous stages, he reminds me that deep down, he really is a sweet kid.  A caring, loving boy with a heart of gold and a kindness unmatched by many ten times his age.  Thank you, Boo, for showing me the unconditional love of a darling child.  Thank you for being MY precious boy.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Doing the best I can.

As I mentioned the other day, I am not perfect.

There are (lots of) other ways to do the job(s) I do.

Lots of better ways to get the job(s) done.

But rest assured, I am doing the best I can.

This life I'm living - my roles as Mom, Wife, Friend, Worker, etc. - I am living it/them the only way I know how.

Sure, it's probably not the most efficient method.

Any one of my friends or family could tell you (though I'm sure they wouldn't) that I'm horrible with time management, I'm forgetful, lack follow-through, and falter in the consistency department.

But I do have the best intentions.  My heart is always in the right place.  My goals are simple.  To be a good person and raise good people in my boys.

So please remember, not just with me but with everyone around you...I may not be doing things perfectly.  I may not even make sense in my tactics or take the most direct path to get from A to B.  But there is a method to my madness and I am sincerely doing the best I can.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Branching out

I downloaded this app months ago that supposedly lets me write and post to my blog right from my phone.  So tonight I thought I'd try it out...

I want to share a couple photos (from my phone) to test that out, too.  So bear with me...if this works you may just hear from me with increased regularity!

Friday, November 9, 2012


Thanks to wonderful friends of mine (Thanks, Joey and Heidi, of course, for lending his time to me!), I think I am on my way (one step closer anyway) to having access to my PHOTOS again!  

A month or so ago, my external hard drive crapped out on me, taking my photo access with it.  But thanks to the genius of my friend, Joey, who worked so diligently a year or two (?) ago to make sure my photo back up system was rock solid, I didn't LOSE anything.  I just went a few weeks without access.  Which is definitely a better alternative!  Let me tell you, the peace and comfort of knowing they were safe was such a relief!

Anyway, I spoke with him tonight and he walked me through the process of getting my computer to recognize the new hard drive I bought and he reloaded the back up on for me.  So by this time tomorrow I should be in business.  By that, I mean I'll have dumped the last month+ of photos that are sitting on my camera disks and will have LOTS of stories to share to go along with them!

So, prepare for an influx of photos (both recent and a little ocurred to me a couple days ago that I haven't even LOOKED at the photos I took in the 1000 Islands on vacation this year.  I took them off my camera and never even flipped through them to delete bad ones!)  

I'll be back with some PHOTOS soon!  Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Just Write.

I am not perfect.

(In fact, I am FAR from perfect.)

I am my own worst enemy.

I am my harshest critic.

For as easy going, flexible and forgiving as I can be…I very seldom award myself those same liberties.

I tend to be a perfectionist…at least when it comes to me, and my expectations of me.

I have big ideas...deep thoughts. And when those ideas or thoughts or feelings don’t seem perfect (or complete or logical or coherent), I keep them to myself.

That’s partially why I’ve missed (THREE +!) days on my NaBloPoMo goal for this month. It goes like this...I sit down to write, the weight of my obligation heavy on my mind. Clouding my thoughts. Suddenly it feels too hard, too much like a duty or a chore that I don’t want to “mess up” or “do wrong”. I worry instead that my thoughts are not complete or profound or even worth sharing. And so I don’t share them. And in not doing so, I've failed. At least in my eyes.

This is the vicious cycle of my life.

Sure...I would love to let loose. Lighten up. Give myself some freedom to just be me. Not the me I wish I was, or the me other people want or believe me to be. Just me. Just the way I am. Imperfect. Distractible. Unorganized. Conflicted. But also loyal, loving. Friendly and fun.

So I will try…to just be. Just write. Just share. Without too much over thinking or perfectionism. Don’t expect anything too deep or weighty, philosophical, insightful, or life-changing. I’ll leave that to people you find here, or here, or here. In trying to be perfect, I’m missing out on the chance to just live. And to capture that living here. Not in a picture perfect way I wish it could be/would be…but simply how it is. Real. Messy. And truly beautiful.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


All day long words circle in my head.

I swim among the many ideas that bounce around and fall into seemingly perfect sentences.

Each carefully constructed thought makes me smile.  I repeat it over and over again in my mind.  Vowing to remember it just as I've planned it in my head.

Hours later I finally get a minute to sit down in front of my computer.  A quiet moment, uninterrupted by demands, responsibilities, constant requests, and duties.  Finally a chance for those words to find their way to the white screen to become permanent and real.


Suddenly, without warning, I reach into my brain for those words.  I search for the magic I created so deliberately just hours earlier...only to find nothing.  No words.  No ideas.  Not even a flicker of remembrance for what topic it was I had spoken so eloquently of.

So I am forced to share that instead.  The nothing that robs me of my creativity.  That void in my thoughts that replaces my original intentions.

Until tomorrow, when the words swarm, the thoughts mingle, and the sentences form once again.  (Hopefully with better luck to last long enough to make it here.)  Until then, I leave you with this.


Saturday, November 3, 2012


Well, day three and I'm already sucking at this NaBloPoMo goal of mine.  (I missed yesterday, in case you weren't keeping track).  Oh well, at least I'm still trying, right?

Today was a busy day.  (as was yesterday, thus the reason I didn't get on here...) I had our very first craft sale to represent PokeBerry Creations, the Etsy shop my sister and I have teamed up on.  It went ok.  I definitely learned a thing or two, which is good.  We made a little money and I left there with some positive feedback (which is always nice to hear!).

Afterwards the boys and I went to Leroy (with Aunt Tiff & Brie) to trick or treat in their neighborhood (yes, a little late, but they postponed it for Hurricane Sandy cleanup).  Alex whined and complained the entire time, but it was a nice treat to be able to trick or treat with Tiff/Brie.  We each usually have our own things going on Halloween night.

Tomorrow is the turkey raffle at our Fire Department.  Another busy day, another busy weekend.  But this is my life and I wouldn't trade it.

I will leave you tonight with something pretty.  Here is a (SOOC, unedited) photo I took tonight of the Leroy Falls.  So peaceful.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012

NaBloPoMo November 2012

So, it's that time of year again.  As you may remember, I participated in NaBloPoMo a couple years ago...posting on my blog everyday in the month of November. 

In an attempt to getting back to WRITING and actually DOCUMENTING my life for posterity, I decided (just now, actually) to participate again this year.  So, expect to hear (or at least see, through photos) a little more about our crazy life!!  Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Lost Boy

I had a conversation with Alex at bedtime tonight.

As we snuggled up on the couch, his head on my lap, curled up with his beloved "cuddle cuddle uppet", Alex looked up at me and said "Mama, I do never want to get big".

I asked him why and he said because if he gets big, I won't push him on the swings...and he won't be able to sit on my lap anymore.

As my heart wept just a little, I (tried to) assure him that he'd NEVER be too big for that.  No matter how big he gets, he'll ALWAYS be my little boy.

But the truth is, he IS going to get bigger.  He WILL (someday) be too big to (comfortably) sit on my lap.

And I, too, wish he never had to grow up.  I want him to forever be my baby.  I want him to always love snuggling with his "Mama".  I rather enjoy the magic my kisses bring.  I love having all the answers, a special touch and comforting hugs.  When he gets big, he'll be too cool, too smart, and too busy.

Peter Pan had something with his whole "Never Grow Up" mentality.  If only the Lost Boys were taking new members.

So I guess, instead, I will just have to soak up every minute I'm granted with my "little" boy.  I will learn to relish all the monumental milestones growing "BIG" brings, and do my best to push Alex on the swings as much as I can NOW.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Evil Knievel, Jr.

As you may remember, last year (for Alex's 3rd birthday), we bought him his very own Power Wheel ATV.  He started out a little slow at first, but since his birthday one short year ago. he's been a riding, zooming, exploring fool.  

He's practically ridden a path across the majority of our 5 acres riding that thing around as often as he's allowed.

Well, with all that practice he's definitely become quite, er, comfortable on his ATV.

And by comfortable, I, of course, mean adventurous.

A smidge wild, perhaps.

Maybe more accurately, CRAZY.

Ok, so there's been talk of him joining the circus.

You be one of those daredevils that ride their motorcycles around a tiny metal cage within mere inches of 6 other motorcyclists going 60+ mph.  

Yep, that's our Alex.  Crazy boy.  Our wild child.  Our daredevil.

Oh yeah, I'm pretty sure he's a descendant of Evil Knieval's.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Snapshot in Time

Dear Alex,

Today is your 4th birthday.  I can hardly believe the amazing little man you have blossomed into in 4 short years.  You started pre-kindergarten a few weeks ago and today you will get on the bus to go to school for the very first time!  Your excitement to ride the bus with your big brother is infectious!

Time goes way too fast, of course, so I want to make sure to capture all the little things about you that change and disappear so quickly!

I love the little "flaws" in your speech.  You speak very clearly and maturely for your age, but it's the little things like how you say your "l" as a "y" (for example, the other day we were walking up the stairs behind Nate and you yelled, "Move it or USE it, Nate!") that I love!!  It's especially adorable to hear you say "upsy-side down" or how you call McDonald's "Old McDonald's".

You are truly my "shadow" little "velcro-boy".  It gets frustrating when I have stuff to get done or I'm trying to get out of the house to go to work, but truth be told, I wouldn't trade it for the world.  Bedtime is still a struggle in that you have to be attached to me in order to settle down and go to sleep.  The snuggle time is priceless though!  When I'm heading out the door in the morning, you request hug after hug after hug and will follow me out the door yelling "I love you, Mommy!",  "Have a good day!", "Watch out for wart hogs!"...all while blowing me a hundred kisses and telling me how much you'll miss me.  Truly heart melting.

I love how you tell me "I love you, Mommy...and I never, NEVER hate you!" at least once a day.

You love to build things, create things, and take things apart.  You brought me a toy the other day that had been broken for as long as I can remember.  At some point it had lost a screw and you had found one (somewhere!) and used the screwdriver you got in your toolbox at Christmas to fix it.  Daddy came in one day to find you taking the door latch off your bedroom door.

On one hand you are very independent, wanting to get your own breakfast, help out with dinner or fold your own laundry.  On the other hand you know just where to "play me" and will insist you need help getting dressed, putting on your shoes, or brushing your teeth.

You truly are my sunshine.  You are insanely adorable, charming, and a bit manipulative.  You know exactly how to get your way and how to use your charms for good (AND evil!)  :)

You LOVE to get dirty.  You are always playing ball, digging in dirt, or getting wet any way you can.

You still pick fuzz from your blanket when you're tired.  
You are so funny, silly and goofy and have such a fun-loving, crazy, fearless, monkey side. 


For a kid your age, you are very patriotic.  You are often overheard singing the Star Spangled Banner.  You can recite the Pledge of Allegiance in your sleep.  And one of your favorite lullabies at bedtime is God Bless the USA, which you know all the words to.

You are a special little boy, Boo.  I love your spirit and the sheer joy you radiate!  I know we've had our fair share of power struggles this past third year of your life.  I look forward to your 4th year to see how you grow, learn, and (*gulp) change even more.  Remember that you will ALWAYS be my little boy.  Your snuggles will never get old, your smile will never fail to make me warm inside and out, and you'll always be my favorite Alex!  I love you to the ends of the earth!