Ella always rides the bus home after school, except on Fridays. On Fridays I pick her up so we can drive straight to violin lessons.
On its face, last Friday was no different. And yet underneath the surface, everything had changed.
As I walked into the entryway of the school to wait for the dismissal bell, I noticed the police officer standing just inside the doors. A few moments later, a young boy entered the school with his mother and cheerfully asked the officer what he was doing there. As he asked his innocent question, all of the parents anxiously waiting for the school day to end tried to hide the tears welling up in their eyes. The police officer slowly kneeled down, looked the little boy right in the eyes, and brightly told him "I'm here to give you stickers!"
Because what else could he possibly say?
It's hard to find words when in reality, there are none.
As the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School unfolded last week, the proximity of it all struck especially close to home for me. Newtown is 45 minutes away. And as details and names slowly began to be released, I learned just how small the degrees of separation were between myself and the Newtown tragedy. A family who lost a daughter is a member of our church stake. The vice-principal at Ella's school lives in Newtown, and one of his closest friends will never see his child again. One of Matt's co-workers is also a Newtown resident and knew several of the victims. And the list goes on...
But as I have attempted to process the events of last week - through shock, tears, and disbelief - I have come to the realization that the reason we are all mourning so deeply for the lost lives of those children, teachers, and school administrators, is because there is really no degree of separation at all in a situation like this. The tears I shed were not because Newtown looks so very much like my own small Connecticut town. They weren't because I knew someone who knew someone.
The tears were because when I send Ella off to school each morning, I see in her those children at Sandy Hook. All of us, no matter where we live, kiss our kids on the head each morning and watch them run off with their backpacks bouncing up and down, and we never question whether they will come back to us in the afternoon.
Until, all of a sudden one Friday in December, we do.
As we observe a moment of silence here in Connecticut and across the country this morning, as the church bells ring out 26 times for each life lost in Sandy Hook Elementary School last week, there truly are no words I can offer. All I know is that the degree of separation between us all at this moment feels very small indeed.
So remember that election we had (doesn't it seem like a million years ago now)? These pictures are from that week and the following week.
November 6th was Election Day, but I was so excited for it that it sort of felt a little bit like Christmas. I love politics. I hate the divisiveness and the negativity that inevitably tends to dominate the political landscape (and try really hard to steer clear of it), but I am passionate about many of the issues... and probably listen to and read far more political commentary than is considered healthy.
I had many discussions with the girls about the political process leading up to Election Day, and we read a lot of books on the subject. My favorite was Grace for President, which I especially recommend for those with daughters. Be warned that I did cry at the end. After all that talk, I promised Ella and Claire they could stay up later than usual to watch some of the results come in.
Of course, electoral map coloring pages were involved and the girls were really
into it. Every time a projected winner was announced it was a mad dash
to color in the correct state and write the number of electoral votes in
the appropriate column. Unfortunately they only got to finish a small
percentage of the map before
heading to bed (one of the downfalls of living in the Eastern time zone).
This was also the week things started getting back to normal after Hurricane Sandy. School was back in session, but on a delayed start Monday and Tuesday, which meant that Ella got to attend ballet class with Lucy. Ella was not terribly excited at the prospect, and was planning to just sit on the sidelines with a book, but she just couldn't help herself...
Town trick-or-treating had originally been rescheduled for the Wednesday after Sandy (Nov 7th), but due to another impending storm - this time a snow-bearing Nor'easter - it was canceled for a second time. Many neighborhoods took matters into their own hands and scheduled their own trick-or-treating for alternate dates. Our preferred trick-or-treating neighborhood (around the corner from us) had their festivities on Tuesday night, so we headed out into the freezing cold on Election Night to collect treats.
Claire and Lucy gave up after
only a few houses and stayed bundled up in the double stroller. Claire declared, "I am DONE. I have enough candy." Thank goodness for Ella's Halloween spirit (she would never allow such words to leave her lips). She literally sprinted from house to house without so much as a coat on, warmed solely by the thought of all that sugar piling up in her bag. The only time Lucy and Claire braved the cold was when Ella found a house that was giving out full-sized packs of Swedish Fish (smart girls).
We did end up getting some snow on Wednesday night. It wasn't enough to cancel school on Thursday (which was quite a relief after already having had an entire week prior off for Sandy), but it was enough for a decent snowman. Claire and I built this guy together after she got home from school on Thursday.
Ella helped put on the finishing touches after she got off the bus.
A few other random photos:
Visiting day at Claire's preschool. I love getting a glimpse of how she spends her days.
I can't believe it's been a year since I became a part of the very first Project Life Creative Team, but alas, my time is up and it's time to pass the torch on to the 2013 team, which will be announced on Becky's blog next week. I have had a lot of fun this year working with Becky and her team, and I will really miss interacting with them on a regular basis. In my last "official" act as a creative team member, here are a couple of recent layouts from the end of September/early October.
Week 39 (September 23 - September 29):
Week 40 (September 30 - October 6):
Although I have a little bit of catching up to do for 2012, I am already thinking about my plans for 2013. I am considering doing an all digital Project Life album next year and finally tackling baby books for all three of my girls with the new Project Life Baby Editions that should be available on Amazon THIS WEEK. I may not post my layouts quite as often, but rest assured I will still be busy over here documenting life. And in all sincerity, thank you for letting me share my Project Life pages with you during this past year.
His and hers hurricane prep: In anticipation of Sandy's arrival Matt stocked up on non-perishables like beef jerky, while my main concern was making sure every device in the house was fully charged.
This was hurricane week. We spent Sunday making last minute storm
preparations, Monday at home waiting for the worst of the storm to hit,
and Tuesday and beyond dealing with the aftermath and storm clean up.
School was canceled for the entire week, and we were actually one of the
only towns in the area that was able to open up schools the following
I will admit that it was nice to all be home together with nowhere to go for a few days. Lucy took advantage of some extra cuddle time with Matt.
When your four-year-old starts drawing pictures of a person in the middle of a hurricane, it's probably a sign that you're watching a bit too much news coverage. Cute and a little disturbing all at the same time.
In all honesty though, the storm did cause some anxiety for the kids, especially Ella. Our town periodically made "Code Red" telephone calls to residents to update us on the storm, which I would put on speakerphone so both Matt and I could hear. I didn't think anything of it until I started noticing that Ella would cover her ears whenever we got one of those calls.
The girls had a sleepover in the living room on Monday night because we didn't want them sleeping upstairs near the windows or in the potential path of falling trees.
We thought it was inevitable that our power would go out for an extended period of time, considering we lost power for two days during Tropical Storm Irene last year and Sandy was a much stronger storm. At the height of the storm the winds were quite frightening, and as the evening wore on our lights did flicker off and on several times. Each time we thought the power was out for good, but then it would come right back on again.
The lights were still on, but Lucy was out for the night.
We were amazed to wake up on Tuesday morning with power, even more so after we checked online and saw that 92% of our town had no power. Then when we started seeing pictures of the devastation throughout the tri-state area, we honestly felt a little silly for escaping the storm unscathed. We were extremely grateful of course, but it honestly felt a bit ridiculous that so many people lost everything and yet we didn't even have to deal with the inconvenience of a cold shower.
I will say that I am always really impressed with the way our town comes together in circumstances like these (sadly, since March 2010 this is the fourth instance of widespread and extended power outages and tree damage, although this was by far the worst). Our library was amazing, staying open late for device charging, offering movie marathons for the kids, and even organizing a potluck so those without power could enjoy a warm meal. Our YMCA opened up to the public for hot showers, and everybody who was lucky enough to have power was looking for a way to help those without it.
We were happy that Matt's sister and family let us feel useful by providing them with dinner, baths and showers, and cousins to entertain
their kids while they were out of power for several days. We just wished we could have done more for Matt's brother and family down in New Jersey who were without power for thirteen days.
Although the coastal areas of our town experienced significant flooding, downed trees were the cause of most of the damage in our area. Enormous root beds like these from trees just toppling over were an extremely common sight all over.
Utility trucks were another common sight. Utility and tree crews from all over the country came to help out with storm clean up (those trucks above came from Indiana).
For me the most surprising - and frightening - effect of Hurricane Sandy was the shortage of gas. Things were especially bad in harder hit areas of New York and New Jersey, but the shortage eventually reached us up here in Connecticut as well. Matt and I even saw New York City taxi cabs that had made the 45 minute drive here just to fill up. By the end of the week all the gas stations in town were out of gas. It definitely made me think hard about how much we rely on gas, and how quickly things dissolve into mayhem when there isn't enough to go around.
With the kids out of school for the week and trick-or-treating canceled (it honestly didn't even feel like Halloween on October 31st), I had to find creative ways to keep the kids entertained. Heading to Target and letting them each pick out a costume from the 70% off clearance rack seemed like as good an idea as any. Ella chose a pirate, Lucy picked a fairy, and that's Claire above all decked out as a Southern belle.
In all seriousness however, we ended this week extremely grateful for the very basics: our home, heat, hot water, electricity, and most importantly our safety during the storm.