Sunday, August 31, 2014

Gettysburg with Fresh Eyes

I wish I had watched the film "Gettysburg" before we went to Gettysburg. Actually, I'm not sure it was a film. At over 6 hours long it has to have been a TV mini-series right? In 1993 we were too busy watching X Files and dancing to "What is Love" to sit in a cinema for 6 hours.

When we went to Gettysburg a few weeks ago we got the CD and did the audio tour in our car, where it said things like "This is stop number 15. Pickett's charge took place here and 6,000 men of x x x x x battalions lost their lives".  I was completely lost by the whole thing - too much military talk and not enough human stories to keep me engaged.

Now I really want to go back to stop 15 and I want to get out of my car and walk the field of Pickett's Charge and I want to sit for a moment and touch the earth and have a little cry. I want to visit the Virginia memorial over by the trees and I want to climb the fence and the wall and sit down where General Armistead took his last breath.  I want to stand at Little Round Top and pay my respects to Captain Chamberlain.

I think another visit is in order.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Linda's Last Day

Today is Linda's last day with us. She's been with us for 6 and a half years and helped raise my boys and I'm going to miss her madly. I don't even know where to start, singing her praises. She's so kind, so very very kind. Never a yell, a screech, a bad word to the boys. She's good to her very core.  The boys adore her of course. Daniel calls her his best friend. And rightly so since she's been his rock his whole life (she's taken care of him since he was 6 weeks old).

She's dealt with tantrums and meltdowns and rambunctious, sometimes obnoxious behavior with calmness and kindness, always. In the past I have sometimes stood back and watched her in awe, amazed by her calm words when I'd have been screaming and losing my mind.

Next week we start a new era of having a teenager babysit after school. The teenager is a friend of a friend and is a stranger to me right now. One of Jack's friends who knows her told me she shouts a lot. Great. That makes me feel like crying. How can we leave our most precious things in the world with anybody but Linda?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Danny's First Full Day

Today was Daniel's first full day in Kindergarten.Since he had such a rough time going last week we decided not to even mention it over the weekend, hoping that by not bringing attention to it he wouldn't get himself worked up into a frenzy. Not a word was uttered about school, not a mention was made when we packed his lunch and set out his school bag.

This morning Jack helped him get ready and I could hear his fear building up but I ignored it. He asked if I would go with him, then told me he wanted to walk behind my legs. By the time we got to the playground his nerve had completely gone and he crouched around the corner, huddled up and looking terrified. My heart just aches to see him like that & no amount of cajoling from me or Jack would get him in that playground.

He didn't cry when we all walked to his classroom but as soon as we entered he looked terrified and the tears came. All the kids sat down but he wouldn't. The teacher told me to leave, so I did. I don't know why I listened to her because I shouldn't have. I had promised him I'd stay with him until he was comfortable and I didn't even say goodbye. Daniel is very perceptive and very precise about these things. If I promise him something I better keep my word and I know that after a short while he would have been okay so why didn't I just hang out with him for half an hour?

After a short span listening to a new parent meeting I went back to his classroom and found him crouched in the corner, crying inconsolably. The Principal was with him and again told me to leave. I said no. I crouched down and whispered to him "I'm really sorry I left you without saying goodbye, but this is something you have to do on your own. Be brave. I promise that you will love your school once you get over this fear. Try and have some fun (in hindsight that what a dumbass thing to say to someone crippled with fear but hey I'm trying) and remember that I love you".  Or something like that. I don't think he even heard me he was so wrapped up in anxiety. Again I left and a friend who had seen this all happen took me in her arms and let me have a little cry.

As I was leaving the building I saw him walking the halls with the Principal. An hour later she called me on my cell phone and told me that she had bribed him with toys, and was that ok? She plans to do that each morning. She gave him a personal tour of the school and has taken him under her wing. I cried again, both out of sadness for him, and because she was so kind, so lovely with how she handled it.

He called me when he got home at 3.30pm. He said he loved it. He played tag with some friends, he saw his brother (he was very excited about that), and he said the orange I put in his lunch box tasted yucky and it was disgusting. I asked if he was okay when I left and he said Oh yeah, A-Okay!  What a relief.

I know I'm not the first parent to be upset the first day or kindergarten and I know some might say I'm being silly or over protective. But if just one teeny-tiny thing I can do makes him feel better about school then it's worth it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Daniel's Firsts: Kindergarten & Soccer

It's been a week on firsts for Daniel which I knew would be difficult. It's takes him a little while to warm up to things and sometimes the lead up to the event is traumatic for everyone involved. I don't handle it too well, which doesn't help. Let's just say it's not a walk in the park for all involved.

The most important thing about both of these new things is that he eventually did try them and the next time he does them I think he''ll be okay. His first soccer practice on Wednesday and his kindergarten evaluation today started in hysteria but ended with him saying with some level of confidence that he'll be okay from now on. Both his soccer coach and his kindergarten teacher are young women who reek of kindness and patience. Both of them connected with him, were kind to him and didn't force or bully him. Both stood back and let him come out of his shell, slowly but surely. How lucky we are to have these two women in his life for the next year.

Craig told me that he did really well during his evaluation today (I was in a meeting at work). He breezed through his math and other short tests and by the end of it he was relaxed and even being a little assertive. He asked his teacher to refer to him as Daniel and not Danny, since Daniel is his name.  I'm not surprised he did well in the evaluation because he is incredibly smart and perceptive, noticing things that most people don't. I think that's what frustrates me sometimes, that he's so clever and funny and talented but his lack of confidence doesn't let it shine through. Being a type-a person I don't totally understand that personality but I'm trying.

Anyway, this is going to be a great year for Daniel. I can't wait to write about his journey at school and in sports. I can't wait to see him make new friends, try new things, and build his confidence. It sounds cliched but it really isn't - these things are very real for both him and me and a long time coming. Go get 'em tiger!

First Soccer Team: The Bulldogs
Kindergarten Evaluation

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's Important in Life?

Did you ever see this video by Johnny Cash? At the time he filmed it he was very ill but he didn't know that the love of his life, June, was dying of cancer. She knew and you can see on her face that she doesn't want to leave him alone.

 The message on this video is that material things don't matter. Superficial nonsense doesn't matter.

After I got back from Dyess on Sunday I left every single Facebook forum that I was on, because suddenly it seems stupid. I am focusing on my family and my main passions (PTA and a local resource center for the needy). The rest of it seems superficial and pointless - the Internet quarrels, the politics, the media, the news. All complete and utter nonsense. People matter, and that is all.

 So the question is, if people matter more than anything in this world, should we move back to England?

Jack: from Pre-School to 3rd Grade

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Road Trip Part 3: The Johnny Cash & Country Music Pilgrimage

I'm making quite a habit of this; uploading a ton of photos with no accompanying stories. I do apologize but until things get back to "normal" there just isn't the time or the desire to write too much right now.

So here's the final leg of their visit. The Johnny Cash tour that I've had rolling around my head for as long as mum and Tom told me they were coming last year. Some of it was pre-planned, some was spur of the moment luck and some was downright cheeky on our part. But ohhh what a trip!

 First stop Hendersonville.
Johnny Cash & June Carter's old house at 200 Caudill Drive, Hendersonville, TN. Much of it burnt down and it was recently bought by a Texas man intent on building a rehab center. We cheekily went in the gate and had a nosey as the builders were working.   The big electric gate shut behind us as we left. My mum was last to leave his house. She'll be the last to see it as his house before it becomes the rehab center. 

Hendersonville Memorial Gardens where Johnny and June and many other country stars are buried.
The original Grand Ole' Opry (Ryman Auditorium) in Nashville

New museum in Nashville. Could have stayed all day! 
Bound for Memphis  - we dined at Loretta Lynn's Diner!
Sun Studios Tour
Gracelands, on the eve of the 41st Anniversary of Elvis's death.

This part of the story is where the luck part comes in.  Early last week I was looking on the web to see how long it would take me to drive from Memphis to Dyess, Arkansas as I knew Johnny Cash was brought up in Dyess and wanted to take them to see his boyhood home. I had a vague recollection that it had been bought last year and was being restored at some point. My thought was "I'd like to take them to see it before it gets restored and too commercialized".

What I saw on the web was that Arkansas State University had bought it last year and had worked with the community to restore it exactly as it was, and that the grand opening was August 16th. That's the day we would be there! And it was only $10/ticket to tour! And members of the Cash family were going to be there! I mean seriously  - what's the chances that my mum and Tom, Johnny Cash's biggest fans, would be in Dyess the very day his boyhood home opened? That's downright spooky.

So I bought 5 tickets and we went. There were only about 200 people there, mostly the Cash family, local people (including his friends from school), State and AS University dignitaries and poor old US! ***

Dyess, Arkansas: a population of 400 people. One gas station in the town. Very poor.  They have restored the Colony Admin Building and the facade of the theatre. They desperately need the tourism that this might bring. 

Waiting for the proceedings to start. My children were catching frogs. 
Johnny Cash's Boyhood home

The rock from the back door that acted as a shoe cleaner to remove the sticky soil (gumbo)

Mum & Tom with Roseanne Cash
With John T. Wayne (John Wayne's grandson)

They took us to the house on a school bus. As the tours get more popular they'll probably have air conditioned coaches!
** If you click on this link and look at the picture of the crowd - far right, back row, there's a blonde woman wearing sunglasses,  a black t-shirt and a badge on her chest - that's me! I tried to find my mum and Tom but couldn't.

So anyway, that's the trip. And what a trip. It will take me a month to digest it.
There's so much more to tell though, like Craig meeting us on Saturday night and then riding his Harley in a thunderstorm the next day. I was watching him in my rear-view mirror and nearly died with fear about the whole thing.

But those stories will wait. Tonight I wanted to get these pictures on here before more life events unfolded. It's back-to-school this week, Leanne has got her certificates from college and I'm missing my family. Mum & Tom got back to England today and my heart aches.
All worthy stories for another day.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vacation Part 2: Plymouth, Salem, Provincetown, NYC & Gettysburg!

When mum & Tom got here we went on another road trip. It was such a packed trip with lots of adventures and stories (a terrible smelly dirty cottage we fled from, a crazy night in the Big Apple and lots of time spent with Leanne), but I just don't have the energy to deal with it right now so I'm going to get all these pictures posted and come back later with stories. At least I hope to, but the pace of my life at the moment is bonkers. Slow down life!!

Plymouth and Plimoth Plantation

One of our hotels

Salem, MA

Provincetown, Cape Cod

New York City

Gettyburg, PA


3 Month Catch-up

I can't believe I haven't posted for over 2 months! So much to say.