Monday, September 28, 2015

King Richard's Faire, Magic, and Memories

   By now you know that I'm a sucker for any kind of cosplay.  That desire started with a little place in Carver, MA known as King Richard's Faire.  When I was seventeen or so, my friend Tracey asked me if I wanted to go to this renaissance festival that was really cool and you could dress up in olden times clothing, you could get this awesome jewelry that you couldn't get anywhere else...she had me at "dress up."  I immediately began to sew together a costume out of tapestries and odd materials, creating a character to go with the clothes.

     That was ahermferumpaderm years ago. I've gone off and on to King Richard's for years, but lately it has become a tradition with my kids.  This year was truly special; my brother Bill took us, along with my brother Charlie's teenage girls.  The dynamic that exists between the four teenage children is something magical in itself--while my kids love the Faire, and participate to an extent, when the four of them are together there's a bit of extra courage for each of them, as if the parts are made stronger by the whole.  I like to think it's the streak of the wild child in my brother's children tempered by the quiet creativity in my own.  Together they stretch the boundaries and made what would have been a fun time...well, as I said, magical.

     I knew it would be special the instant they started dancing when the drummers played.  Without care for who was watching, they twirled and dipped, arms flying about their heads. 
My nieces with Punkgirl and Happyboy dancing to the music.

     Off they went.  A small part of me wishes I could just follow them, and watch with glee the mischief they could indulge in.  

     But then I would have missed this:

And this:

And even this:

     Still...I did miss the children conspire with Queen Anne.  Yes, the four teens stalked the Queen, and when the Queen insisted they dance with her, they asked her if it would be easier if the King were...missing.  Now, I'm not going to go into details, but let's just say they wanted to take some of the weight off the King's the Queen's defense, she made sure that the King wasn't to be harmed, only perhaps...indisposed for a bit.  It was almost too incredible to believe that the Queen played along, until an hour later, when she came back, and I heard the exchange with my own ears.  All in all, it was a fairly magical piece of the day.
The Queen indulges the young lady with some Harry Potter "expelliarmus" action

The young misadventurers in the Queen's court

While waiting to address the King, we caught the Misadventurers on the King's was another highlight of the day, as the Missdventurers called for young children to participate, to become Misadventurers themselves.  My two nieces (let's just call them Wild Wench and Lady Who) and Happyboy readily jumped up to participate, but to my surprise, so did Rose.  Up the ramp to the stage she went, and as the show went on stopped periodically to yell, "Mom, Dad, Billy--I'm on stage!" over and over.  She's a bit of a ham.
Happyboy, Wild Wench and Rose on stage at The Misadventurers

     Again, it was a huge highlight of the day.  There were also the Washing Wenches, the Whip Show, an aerial silks show, and the Jousting events, all free of charge, as well as a tiger show that we didn't stop to watch.  These were all of the events that were included in the cost of admission, and you can, with older children, get away without paying for anything else but food or souvenirs.  However, we had Rose, so we ended up shelling out cash for the maze/slide, the rocking ship, and the pony ride:
Rose and Jessie, a friendly little gal who nuzzled my hand and consented to a pat on the neck.

     Now here comes my one complaint.  King Richard's Faire doesn't allow any food brought in, and doesn't allow you to leave and return.  What this means is that for people like Punkgirl & me, who have celiac disease, there really isn't an option to eat there.  The food service helpers are woefully untrained about allergies--they told my husband that the chicken nuggets and fries were gluten free.  My daughter ate them, and for the remainder of the day I watched for headaches, rashes, and stress.  Before I purchased my own food (because I couldn't believe they were really gluten free) I asked again. I was told no, they were not.  I stood in two separate lines, because on the website both the sausage pepper onion and the chili bowl are listed as gluten free, but as I watched them dip the ladle into the bread each time and then back into the bowl, I knew there was no chance that my food wouldn't be cross-contaminated.  I get incredibly ill if I even get a drop of wheat in my system, and since I didn't want to spend the rest of the day in the bathroom or lying down on the ground, I chose to stick to water and chance the kettle corn.  Because KRF has a food ticket system, this meant I now had $15 worth of tickets (yes, it's $5 for a Coke and between $8 and $10 for a meal--and you have to buy tickets in denominations of 5) that I couldn't use.  This was the worst part of the day, but I did pull myself through--I've been dealing with celiac since before they had gf options anywhere, so I am no stranger to just sucking it up and being hungry at big events.

     The food hiccup aside, we had a really good time.  It was expensive, because we were feeding 4 people (5 counting me--but I used my tickets to buy my mom some fudge and Rose some ice cream) and we were buying souvenirs--but for $26 I got each of the kids and myself one of these little leather notebooks in varying colors and this uber-cool pencil:

But even with those costs, the free things I got were worth far more in value to me: 

Slay At Home Mom and her little Misadventurers

The Princesses and the little misadventurers

Happyboy being adventurous 

Rose hanging out in a Sky Chair--literally.

A Sun Sprite who spent some time interacting with the young misadventurers

A fun day at the Faire for all.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Future Punkgirl and Other Lunch Shenanigans

Okay, I'm not the first person to write about making from-home lunches fun, and I'm sure I'm not the most creative, but I am the one most likely to never tell you to cut your kid's sandwich into a replica of the Mona Lisa. If you, like me, have no aptitude for making works of art out of food, then this is the post for you.

Punkgirl was diagnosed with celiac disease five years ago, and the biggest change for her (and me) was the inability for her to order lunch at school. We eat a gluten free meal for dinner (because I, too, have celiac disease, and I refuse to cook two meals), but up until that point I let the kids get their fill of gluten-filled foods during breakfast and lunch. Punkgirl was pretty devastated to find that she could no longer participate in eating the chicken nuggets, pizza Friday, or any of the other kid-friendly (read:gross) foods at school. And until recently, these things weren't readily available in gluten-free varieties. 

So I became pretty good at slapping two pieces of gluten-free bread together, but more importantly, I became great at making the kid laugh at lunchtime. It's not fun when you're eating a lunch brought from home that tastes like cardboard in tinfoil and everyone else is eating warm chicken enchiladas, or hamburgers, or even sloppy joes. Thus began Future Punkgirl and Other Shenanigans.

I write notes--not every day, because then it's too routine, but say, once every few weeks or so, though I have gone as long as a month--to Punkgirl, from Future Punkgirl (in case you haven't guessed it yet, Punkgirl is my eldest daughter, Shaelin.) 

Punkgirl was a middle-schooler when I started, and middle-schoolers are for some odd reason obsessed with gross. So the grosser, the better. They also love drama, which is why I like this one:

Today, for the first time in high school, I sent her one that said "Shaelin, something momentous is going to happen today. Be ready for it....*PS, if you don't believe me, your friend S is sitting to the right of you today. PPS If S isn't sitting to the right of you, you've accidentally changed the future by coming back to the past to warn me--you! ~F.S.

Punkgirl ruined the surprise today by accidentally going into her lunch bag in the morning, but the hysterical giggling coming from her lips tells me she still enjoys the adventures of Future Punkgirl.

I know you're thinking "that's it? A couple of notes, that's all you've got for me?" The truth is, it could be--it's minimal effort and maximum return (because we never know when future Punkgirl will make an appearance), but for those of you over-achievers out there, I have a couple more suggestions.

Be crazy. By "be crazy" I don't mean hide in the lunch room closet and spy on her to make sure she's eating okay (I mean, it will stay in her mind for the next several years when you pop out that one time and let her know that you'll keep checking to make sure she's actually eating...but you probably don't need to do that. Probably.) I mean be creative, and make her be creative. I've duck taped her dessert closed (though she wasn't as happy with that one because she put in all the effort of getting it open to find NOT CHOCOLATE inside.) I've cut a cupcake in half and placed it in one of those weird-shaped salad dressing holders, so the only possible way to get it out involved getting chocolate frosting on your fingers. And I've used milk and food coloring to paint toasted bread for her sandwich with bizarre or creepy pictures (though admittedly, that one was far more effort than I generally expend.) 

The idea is that Punkgirl gets a laugh, or a groan, with at least a few lunch meals per month. Her friends even get a laugh, as she opens her bag with care in case something some day pops out of there. Not that I've encouraged that concern...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Something Serious: Suicide Prevention Week

Suicide Prevention Week is coming up, and it has me in a serious mood, reminding me that as glorious as my life is right now, there was a time where I suffered from PostPartum Depression (PPD) and suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, I was able to get help, and if you have these kinds of experiences, I urge you to reach out if you're able.

     The first time I realized how bad it was I was driving home on I-93, with the baby in the car seat and tears streaming down my face. I had just left the Deerfield Fair, where my mother and relatives were enjoying the crisp fall air and the quaint offerings of the biggest pumpkin and best quilt contests.  
     I couldn't enjoy them, and had left my mother and her bewildered look behind, as I frantically took my five month old from her and hustled towards the car. A moment before I had been standing just past the fried dough stand, where I'd stopped to get a take-home piece for my husband. The breath had backed up in my lungs and a scream was waiting to burst from my lips as my gaze whipped from side to side. She had taken my baby.  
     That was all I could think, that they always say that it's someone close to you who steals your baby. As she headed back in my direction, I ran towards her, kneeling down to hug Shaelin and look up at my mother like a deer caught in headlights. I was terrified, and she was confused.
     "Sam, what's wrong?" She was genuinely curious, because not two minutes ago she had told me she was going to wait down at the gate. She couldn't know that the demon in my mind, the post-partum depression that I hid masterfully from view so no one would laugh at me or think I was weak, had erased that part of the conversation as if it had never happened.
     It didn't get much better when I was home. My husband had gone out with his best friend, and they had run into the friend's old girlfriend. This immediately translated to "they planned to meet her, and they didn't want me along."
     I sent the friend, who is one of the nicest guys on the planet, a nasty email accusing him of plotting to do God knows what, and to involve my husband in it, too. Even the little voice in the back of my head that was often lucid didn't stop me from pressing "send", and the next day he showed up at my work, trying to set things straight with a person who could no longer keep the demon separate from the girl. I was embarrassed, even more so as he waited an hour for me to finish work to see me. I don't remember the conversation we had--the demon was talking too loud--but I do remember telling him that my brother's death two months before had just made me a little "crazy." I tried to fluff it off, even as he tried to help, and ultimately, the demon won and I just went home.  
     Home, where I often envisioned running scissors down my arms until they reached my wrists, and the only thing that kept me from doing it was the little miracle baby who needed me as much as I needed her. She was less than six months old and was the only thing keeping me alive.
     The manic moments came more and more often. I accused my husband of anything I could accuse him of, and hid my demon as best I could from the doctor, my work, and the rest of my family. I would find myself poring through bills, trying to find something to fight about, because surely my husband didn't really want me.  
     Finally, a lucid moment allowed me to call my doctor. She only had two patients left and worked part-time, so I got her machine, where I left a teary message telling her that I wasn't me, that I had thoughts of hurting myself that couldn't belong to me. While I didn't immediately get an answer, I was sure just letting it out had helped. I felt so much better.  Later that day, when she called me at work, I let out an embarrassed laugh. "I was just over-whelmed for a minute. I'm fine, and I'm sorry I bothered you." It was Halloween Day, 2001, just a month and a half after two planes crashed into the twin towers. Everyone was ready for the world to get back to its routine, and I was no exception. Shaelin had her little piglet costume all ready for that night. The doctor ended the call with me, and did something that today would probably get her fired: she called my husband.  
     He begged, pleaded, and finally demanded that we got to the mental health urgent care department immediately. I resisted, telling him that Shaelin wasn't going to miss her first Halloween; in my mind, the demon was telling me that my husband only wanted proof that I was crazy so that he could take the baby when he divorced me.  
     I went into the waiting room with my arms crossed, my foot tapping, anger and fear at war with my lucidity. The big tattooed male nurse who talked to me made me feel "normal" for the first time in months. The therapist that came in to talk to me wanted me to admit myself to the hospital for a few days, and I explained in the only words that would pass my lips: "I will die without my baby. I'm better when I'm near her."  
     They made my husband promise to stay with me over the next few days as I set up appointments with therapists and psychologists. My mother came over when he couldn't be there. I wish I could say that I was immediately better; but the truth is that it took me a long time. It took medication to re-set the chemical imbalance in my brain, which had started with a miscarriage, worsened with pregnancy and delivery, and pushed me over the edge with the death of my brother.  
     But it did get better. The demon receded and I could finally remember who I was, could find my lucidity and embrace it. Years later, it's even easy to laugh at how "crazy" I was. But I try not to--I try to remember that in that moment, it wasn't crazy, it was my existence. I want my daughters and son to know that depression--the demon--can rear its ugly head, and that it won't be funny, they won't be laughed at, and that it can get better if they can only find the courage for one moment to reach out.  

     If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, please reach out.  Help is available. Call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit