Monday, March 28, 2011

The world is a flood

The great flood of 2011 is here. The bridge is closed. Pedestrians are taking Sunday strolls with babies and cameras to capture the fun of another swollen-water spring. Shops are having 'floodwatch 2011' sales. The corner malt shop is hoppin'--why? Because that's what you do, grab a malt and watch the flood.

I entered the paper's contest to correctly guess when the bridge would close/reopen. I missed it by 6 hours! The winner gets a year's subscription to the paper. When I saw the live trucks lined up around 5:30, I knew my prediction was doomed.

Actually, all signs so far this year say the flood is going to be less than epic, and that is good. The forecasters definitely scared us with this one. Back during the wet fall and snowy December, they started talking about the spring flood. It *was* predicted to be as bad as it was in 1965, when water was actually up to the second floor of my house and someone used dynamite to blast away a part of downtown in an effort to channel the waters away from the majority of houses. Like good Minnesotans, everyone rebuilt exactly where they were before and they built up the flood control system.

We started actually getting concerned when the city sent us a letter outlining the flood plan and updating citizens on diversion channels and how great our levee is. The letter went into great detail about how our levee could withstand a 100 year flood and even a 500 year flood. (How do they even know that?) Then, they'd point out on the bottom that if you wanted flood insurance, this is what you need to do.... And above all, don't panic. We asked ourselves, should we be panicking? We asked our neighbors, are you panicking? We called our insurance agent, should we be panicking?

Then, the next town over, who I guess doesn't have an awesome levee, started raising their levee by three feet. Two towns over, they started sandbagging. Another town put out a call for sandbaggers. Everyone waited and watched with fingers poised above the proverbial panic button.

Then, a slow thaw. Forecasters say it's the perfect thaw for a spring flood. Warm during the day, freezing at night. The end of March might have a hint of spring, but don't let those robins fool you. It's still 30-something or 40-something during the day and in the teens at night. You still need those wool socks and long underwear.

Our sump pump hasn't kicked on yet. As we checked out the flood on our Sunday stroll with baby and camera in tow, we noted water was going down instead of continuing to rise. The expected crest is this week, and people are hoping we don't get another snow.

We still aren't panicking, but this might warrant a trip to the malt shop anyway.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What's the deal with cancer?

As a reporter, I routinely run across a variety of people. Some impressions are fleeting; some wind up being Christmas-card-worthy. I am always touched to get a follow-up note after a story. I still keep up with a few story subjects who have become friends over the years.

Earlier this year, I covered the annual State of the Cities address where four local cities gave speeches. A short time later I went to city hall to cover an event and was shocked to see the newly re-elected third term mayor could barely walk up the stairs. He'd noticeably lost weight. The next day the city confirmed he had cancer. I got to interview him once more, when he graciously allowed a two-camera, multi-light-kit, five-person crew inside his house for an interview about his cancer. He told me he discovered cancer on January 21. He died on February 26.

From a media standpoint, he was easy to work with. He returned calls in a timely manner. He was congenial. He was patient and answered questions even when it was one of those loosely connected what-if stories that the media often uses to fill time. If the gatherings at the funeral and memorials were any indication, he will be missed. Even the Liberian ambassador to the US flew here to attend the service.

This past weekend, I lost another professional contact after a long and brave battle with cancer. She was a volunteer with area schools, and we've done several stories on how she helped develop an Autism resource library. She was a fierce advocate for her autistic son. She went to the doctor for a cough and got a diagnosis for stage 4 lung cancer, even though she claimed she never smoked. (This happens more frequently than you might think in Minnesota, I'm told, because of high radon levels in homes.)

When we found out she had cancer, I went to interview her about it in her home. So hard. She had a husband and three children--one isn't even in preschool. She flew to cancer centers and tried regular, then experimental drugs...everything to stop the spread of the disease. But, in her battle, she was gracious. She sent me a card when she found out I was expecting Jack. She called me later and asked me to drop by her house for a picture that would go in her "victory scrapbook" that she was making to remember her cancer battle. She wanted copies and scripts of the stories for that victory scrapbook.

I got the Caring Bridge update that she was going into hospice two weekends ago. The next weekend, I got another one saying she had passed away. Such a loss for the family and the community.

I am tired of cancer. Such losses.... and such a startling reminder of the brevity of life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Year One

Dear Jack,
You are one.

It is so hard to believe the sleepless nights, the smiles, the crying because you hate to be in a car seat, the growth spurts, the chattering, flinging food, first holidays, and the crawling have all added up to be a year. In Year One, each day's challenges seemed sufficient for the day. In the hustle of bedtimes, bathtimes, mealtimes, storytimes, and what-do-I-do-now-times, it's often hard to take in the wonder of parenthood until you look back in retrospect.

Even though we have been as busy as ever, I think we've stopped to treasure the small things along the way. And I don't just mean on those random mornings when we realized, 'he actually slept through the night.' Your father and I have frequently stopped in the middle of one of your gummy smiles to look at each other and smile ourselves. Since I'm at home every night, I treasure bathtime and storytime.....Goodnight Moon, On the night you were born, and your favorite--Wheels on the Bus--complete with movable parts. You don't tolerate longer books yet, but you do pick one up while playing and flip through the pages like you are reading. The first time I saw you do this, it was probably my proudest parent moment yet. While I get nights, your dad gets the mornings. This is when you are in your best mood and you like to laugh when I put you in bed with him to wake him up. You know hours of playtime are ahead.

You are a happy baby, and I'm fortunate for that. You love music and when a dancing tune comes on, you start bouncing and moving. You especially like James Brown and every morning, your dad makes sure you hear some jazz or soul. You never meet a stranger and go to nearly everyone willingly. Actually, you most enjoy going from one person's arms to the next....always looking for a place to go and a new person to meet.

You have a best friend at daycare and his name is Zach. Your teachers say you are always playing together, sharing toys, and trying to go down the play area stairs head-first. When Zach moved to the playroom a few days ahead of you, you each sat on either side of the plastic fence and just looked at each other. I'd imagine the conversation went like this, 'You still in there, man?' 'yeah, they won't let me out.' 'How much time ya got left?' Your friendship quickly rekindled when you moved up.

You are developing a temper, which you get honestly. Now, when you don't get something you want, youcan let out a wail that will shake the windowpanes before you put your head down and cry. When you are hurt or scared, you let out a 'silent scream' before the accompanying glass-shaking wail. You do have a mind of your own and we have to keep the staircase continually gated to keep you from climbing up them yourself, which you can do in under a minute. If you see us gating off the staircase, we'll hear the cry. Something also fascinates you about throwing things in the bathtub. When you find the bathroom door open, you will inevitably carry a small toy in there and throw it in the tub. We've found several missing items there. When I shut the door so you can't get in the bathroom, we hear another wail. You do like your freedom.

I'm looking forward to the changes we'll see this next year. I'm curious to know if you will be as adventurous as a walker as you are as a crawler. I'm wondering if you will start appreciating gravity or will continue to try to hurl yourself off changing tables, beds, couches, etc. I'm wondering when your chattering will become more words. I'm wondering if you will continue to shun sugar. I'm wondering if you'll ever like the car seat.

But I know Year Two will move just as fast too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jack's first birthday party

I realize the first birthday party is actually more about the parents rather than the kiddo. Jack won't remember his first birthday party, but I think he'll enjoy the pictures someday. Or maybe.

In honor of Jack's birthday, we built a birthday around a "Very Hungry Caterpillar" theme in honor of a book that we read quite frequently during Year One.
Jack's friends and family came over to celebrate on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. This party has been feeding my addiction to party blogs for the past several months, and I put quite a bit of effort into planning everything just right. For the most part, I was very pleased with how everything turned out--except I forgot to get a wide shot of the party table so you can't see the fabulous banner I made. I also made a great door decoration, but I didn't want to include it here since it had our address posted on it. (and I didn't want to go to the trouble to blur it out)

Jack didn't seem to care so much about the cake. We've done the strict no-sugar during year one policy, and he ate more fruit than he did cake. We'll see how long this continues. Even as the cake sits in our fridge, we've ate more of it than Jack.

I also don't have pictures on here of the nice caterpillar cupcake cake that the guests ate. That will come later. The gals at Cupcake Tuesday did a wonderful job.

For games, we played pin the head on the caterpillar, a bean-bag toss, and a memory game that the older kids seemed to enjoy. They also helped Jack open his gifts. Our friends are generous and we appreciate them.

Dave's family also flew to Minneapolis to be in on the fun. It was nice having them here and a prolonged birthday celebration. I have a feeling Jack might be bored when this birthday week is over.

Tonight we'll go eat something I know Jack likes: Steak!

Jack's first First Birthday

When you have family planted in several locations, sometimes you are lucky to have more than one birthday celebration. When I made a quick weekend trip home over President's Day weekend, Jack celebrated his first birthday with his great-grandmother, who was having an actual birthday on that day.
Usually trips home involve quite a bit of planning....texting and calling people to let them know when I'm coming home. I had a very busy few weeks leading up to the visit, so I made zero plans. However, a few family members and close friends decided to make all the arrangements for a party. I was very touched by the decorations and the overall effort.

The party was fun, the food was good, and we got some nice gifts. Jack didn't seem that interested in the cake, but he was very interested in all of the other kids and a few of the noise-making toys.