life on the funny farm

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Broken Child

With the help of my other sons, we righted the table.
Rolling fruit was gathered and washed.
Jagged ceramic lay in pieces on the floor.
The dish, a gift, looked broken beyond repair.
I gathered the fragments together and began placing them in a sack to be discarded.

The dish wasn't the only broken thing here.
My son, full of teen angst and layers of past traumas, had flipped this table over in a moment of rage.
Not a rage over the losses in his life or the hurts he's endured, but over the latest insurmountable injustice. He didn't get the seat he wanted when it came time to watch a movie, and this insignificant precipitator had escalated and swollen till its enormity could not be controlled.

Sweeping up the broken bits too small to be gathered by hand, I wondered,
Could I fix my child?

Such arrogance to pose that question.

Logical Me knew well enough that you can't undo the hurt caused by years of neglect, drug use, lead paint, institutionalization, and abuse physical, mental and emotional simply by gifting a child a room of his own, nice clothes, a pool, and a family vacation down the shore.

But Melodramatic Me fantasized that by showering him with our unconditional love and support (and a good dose of professional therapy), maybe, just maybe, he could turn whole again. That if the light of our love could seek out and illuminate the darkest recesses of his hurt, it would be enough to negate all that happened in his past.

Could love, support, and Stuff eradicate a person's traumatic past?

Listening to the muted rumble of him trashing his room upstairs, it was looking as if the answer was no.

Still, I had to believe that all this drama is part of the healing process he must go through to recalibrate. He was functioning just fine in his old life until I came along and opened up his wounds. He barely gave a thought to his scars, his lack of a family. A pack of rowdy boys roaming the streets and doing the things unsupervised boys do served fine as a family. And scars were just that, scars. They had long ago healed and were nothing more than part of his physical terrain. He gave them no more thought than he would one of his freckles.

A person could walk along through life impaled by a staff. Perhaps once in a while, if he weren't careful, it might become a problem, it might hurt if he got it caught on something. But if it spared organs and arteries, a person could function, certainly. Remove that staff, and now you've got exposed, raw, painful flesh. That wound will ache. It will heal, but it will take time and it will hurt like the dickens for a good long while. And without proper care, the gash could become worse before it gets better. Could become inflamed, infected.

Of course this is Melodramatic Me at my finest here, but I'm trusting that's what we're dealing with. A case of old wounds opened up and aggravated. Every instance of loss of control becomes like a cattle prod in the bared gash. On a good day he can bite the bullet as he controls himself and the pain subsides. On a bad day he becomes a wounded, cornered, wild animal acting out in self preservation.

I cut my finger on a piece of the shattered ceramic. I watched the blood trickle down my hand and drop to the floor, mingling with the dust of the broken dish and my tears, which had been raining down steadily. I stood and moved to the sink, and washed the blood from my negligible nick. Probably wouldn't even need a Band Aid.

In a moment, my son appeared, standing at my shoulder.
Through his own tears, and barely able to look at me, he murmered his apologies, then walked outside. I completed my task, then went outside to talk to him, Big Lectures beginning to form in my mind. But as I closed the kitchen door and walked into the night, I turned and found my son leaning against the deck railing, looking out over the pond and illuminated by the light of the moon. He was crying. Sobbing.
The lecture could wait. I stood beside him and reached up to put my arm around his shoulders. And we stood together like that for some time, quietly crying together.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm Expecting!

Just got confirmation yesterday that I am expecting a boy. Not a baby boy, but a strapping 8 year old. That's right, I'm such a pro by now that I've learned how to completely bypass the diaper stage.

Before you go rushing off to get me a baby shower gift, allow me to clarify. We'll be hosting a boy from the Fresh Air Fund this summer. He will travel by bus from the Bronx to join our family for a week in August to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine of rural PA (little does he know that the fresh air 'round these parts smells less of sunsine and more of bovine waste products).

When I asked his Mom what Obrin likes to do, she told me she didn't know, because he's not allowed to play outside due to the bad neighborhood they live in. Here's hoping that Obrin can get a year's worth of swimming, fishing, catching fireflies, playing fetch with the dogs, going for walks and riding a bike in the week he's with us.

Here's Obrin with his lttle sister.

They're Movin' On Up

Last week Fred and I had a couple graduation ceremonies to attend.
No, no high school or college seniors throwing their hats to the sky, but James' 8th grade graduation and Bella's and Julie's 5th grade "moving up" ceremony to celebrate the passage from elementary school to middle school.
James was a Nervous Nellie and sat stiff as a board throughout the entire proceedings, but he not only made it through, but enjoyed himself immensely at the dinner dance following the ceremony.

Though the ceremony has just ended and he's on his way out the door, he doesn't look much relieved, does he...?

Here he is with some of his friends.

Bella and Julie both looked lovely and had a grand time at the outdoor celebration, receiving their certificates with pride.

This is Natasha with her teacher Mrs. Pomante.

Yulie with her teacher Mrs. Stancato.

My two angels.

Still can't believe that next school year I'll only have one left in elementary school (Daniel). I'll have three in middle school (Bella and Julie in 6th and Rosie in 7th), a high school freshman (James) and a high school sophomore (Patrick).

Sniff, sniff.
Is there a hankie in the house?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hold the Cherries .....

The other day Fred went a little crazy pruning some of our fruit trees (cheap therapy). After he came in all sweaty and scratched up, I surveyed his handiwork. Looked like a tornado hit. There were branches everywhere and our poor trees looked like, well, poor trees.
He waved his hand in a sweeping motion to indicate the arborial slaughter and said, "Perhaps you could have the kids pick these branches up tomorrow".
"And do what with them" I inquired curiously.
He hesitated when the proportion of the problem sunk in and then muttered, "Just have them throw them into the side pen and I'll clear them into the ravine with the tractor another time".
Oh, another time. Our famous words. The translate loosely to "It'll never git dun".
But ever willing to serve my darling husband's wishes, the next day I rallied the troops and told them it was time to go move some branches.
"Why, was there a storm?"
"No, your Dad trimmed the trees."
There followed some wailing and moaning of biblical proportions, but they managed to rip their bottoms from the couches and chairs and head outside to survey the damage.
New round of wailing and moaning. But I stayed the course, assuring them they would have No Fun of Anykind until this chore was completed. They slumped their shoulders to the point of defying gravity. Physics would dictate they should fall over with their shoulders rounded forward to such a degree, but upright they remained.
Once they were underway I headed back inside to moan and wail over the chores I needed to start in on. After a bit, as I was cleaning in the kitchen, I saw a bowl of cherries on the kitchen table. Some of the kids had picked those yesterday and weren't they yummy. I popped a couple in my mouth and went about my business, but some nagging issue was starting to solidify in my mind. It started as a vapor but continued to take shape as I moved along, chewing my cherries. Into the trash I spit the pits, and the fog of a problem finally took shape. I picked up the phone and called Fred, who was out at the tractor store.
"When you were trimming the trees, did you happen to cut any of the cherry tree branches?"
"Yeah, some, why?"
"Because the wilted leaves of cherry trees are toxic to goats and horses!" I yelped, revealing that on rare occassions my brain was capable of retreiving pertinent information.
"Well just tell the kids not to throw them into the side pen"
"Too late, they've been at it for awhile now."
"Well then ....."
But I had already hung up the phone and raced outside.
And yep, there were the goats, clambering over the growing branch pile like ants on a watermelon rind, munching happily away. I yelled for the kids to stop throwing branches in, ran into the pen and chased all the goats out.

The kids were staring at me like I had finally lost my mind.

I scanned the ground and found the offending item I was looking for. I waved it over my head for all to see.
"See this? This is a cherry tree branch!
They were looking sideways at each other now, finding it amusing that Mom was becoming so unhinged right before their eyes.
"We need to go through these piles of branches right now and remove ALL of them."
"WHAT?! We just put them all in!"
"I know, I know, but cherry tree branches are poisonous to goats and horses"
Bella started to cry. "You mean all our horses and goatie-goats are gonna DIE?!"
"No, honey, only if they eat the leaves after they get all brown and shriveled. But we have to get them out of here now before they eat any more."
"But I don't want to touch them if they're POIsonous!"
"No, honey, they're not poisonous to touch. Just if they're eaten."
"But I eat cherries all the time!"
"The cherries aren't poisonous. Just the leaves. And only if they're all brown and wilted. And only to goa..... oh never mind, just get in here and start taking out any branches that have leaves that look like this. And any leaves on the ground that might have gotten ripped off the branches when you threw them in. Pretend it's like an Easter egg hunt."

So the kids now began working in reverse, pulling out any cherry tree branches they had thrown in only minutes before, deconstructing their giant bird's nest. It was kinda like playing Pick-up-Sticks only with giant, scratchy, interwoven branches instead of skinny little colorful sticks. Had I recorded the children as they undid all their hard work, I could have sold it to a movie studio to be used as audio for a scene where family members look thorough a bloody battlefield to find their fallen loved ones all disemboweled and decapitated. The moaning had reached its pinnacle at this point. But I have to give credit where credit is due. They did it. Our side pen was once again a habitable pen for our four-legged friends. Our one-day-to-be-removed-to-the-ravine-branch-pile had now reached new heights and could probably be seen from the town center.

Just then Fred came home and asked how he was supposed to mow the grass with this big pile of cherry tree branches in the way.

I had a few choice ideas of what he coud do with the branches, but it is my intent to keep this blog G-rated, so I'll not post my suggestions here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The envelope, please .....

Thanks to all for the name suggestions for our newest furry family member. After much debate and hair-pulling, we have chosen.
And his name shall be called Finnegan.

Since he's 1/2 Irish (Dad is a Gypsy Cob), 1/4 French and 1/4 Welsh (Mom is 1/2 Percheron, 1/2 Welsh Cob), we knew we wanted something Irish. Finnegan apparently means "Little Fair One", which, with his icy blue eyes and his black and white coloring seemd to fit him just fine.

Here he is in this picture with Mom Genevieve and big brother Pippin.

He's doing quite well in this new world of his. He seems to like the feel of his legs underneath him and the all-you-can-eat-24/7 buffet, but he doesn't care for the flies.

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's a Boy!!!!!

My mare Genevieve delivered her colt this morning (or late last night?). He's a gorgeous black and white blue-eyed lady killer. Cute as a button. Mom and baby seem fine, but big brother Pippin is a wee jealous. If he gets too close Mom pins her ears and makes like to kick. Pip backs away slowly. Kinda like me guarding my morning coffee. Don't get too close to me. Yet .....

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My kingdom for some chocolate ....

Picking my youngest up from school today, I got a call on my cell phone from my oldest. It seemed demons were flying about the house wreaking havoc and destruction. In my most soothing and wisdom-infused Mom's voice I did what I could to bring a peace over hearth and home, but just before the call vanished in a wisp of static I could still hear screaming and fussing and general unrest.
Nearly out of gas, I pulled into a station and began pouring cash into the tank (it seems to prefer small bills to gasoline) and my ears were immediatley assaulted with pleas for something to drink because of extreme end-stage dehydration.
The "no" was perched on my lips, but then I thought, know what? I could use something medicinal right about now to soothe my frayed nerves.
"Here honey, here's some money. You go inside and get yourself a slushy, and while you're in there, get Mommy some chocolate, would you?"
I went back to pumping cash, but with a wee smile playing at the corners of my mouth, and a slight trickle of anticipatory drool.
I got back in the car just as my child was coming out of the store, purchases in hand. My eyes gleamed.
He got in the car....
He handed me my contraband....
I looked down in the hopes of seeing a MIlky Way, or perhaps a Twix. Maybe even a good old-fashioned unadulterated Hershey Bar. What I got was....
Ultimate Fiber Bar, + Antioxidants.

What the....?

Truth be told, if I looked closely at the package, I could discern bits of what could pass for chocolate mixed in with all that substantial fiber.
But it wasn't what I had in mind. I thanked my child, but couldn't even bring myself to open it.
I headed home to break up the chaos and repair any damaged egos and/or furniture, head hung low.

Guess chocolate and I just weren't fated to be together today.

My hips are thankful, but my lips are holding a grudge.....

Math Problems

1) Betsy bought 5 tickets to the baseball game. Going to the game would be Betsy, 3 of her kids, + 1 friend.
But Johnny decided later he did not want to go to the game because baseball is boring. Betsy told Johnny fine then, be bored at home.
So when Nancy asked if she could use Johnny's ticket to invite a friend, Betsy said of course, at least you appreciate what I do for you.
Johnny later decided that he wanted to go to the game after all, but Betsy told him he was s--- out of luck.
Then another friend, a grown-up friend of Betsy's, had an extra ticket, so Johnny could go after all.
But now Johnny only wanted to go if he could bring a friend too.
Betsy said too bad so sad, but then Nancy's friend said she might not be able to go to the game after all, so Betsy said Johnny could use that ticket for a friend.
In the next few hours, Johnny asked his friend, who said yes. Then Nancy's friend said she could go, and Nancy told her OK. Then Betsy told her no, we don't have the extra ticket anymore. Then Johnny's friend couldn't go.

a) how many tickets does Betsy need?
b) how many tickets does Betsy have?

2)Betsy and her kids and their friends get on a blue train to go to the baseball game. The train is travelling 60 mph against a 20 mph headwind. When the train crosses a bridge over a river and Betsy jumps off the train screaming in mental anguish, calculate:
a) her rate of descent as she leaps off the speeding train.
b) how many minutes will pass before any of her kids even notice she's gone.


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