Archive for July, 2010

If a little boy doesn’t want to take a nap, he’ll claim in full volume from the top of the stairs that he’s not tired.

So I’ll do some quick thinking–none of it helpful–and allow his still-pajama’d body to join us down stairs, so long as there’s no whining.

His selective hearing won’t register the part about the whining, so he’ll immediately collapse at my feet with a squeaky voice, and I’ll send him to the backyard to join his sister

Only his sticky fingers will grab his sister’s cheap, metallic yo-yo on his way out.

And because his sister will have chosen this moment to completely love her two-cent yo-yo, she’ll want it back in one piece, and she’ll want my help.

Which means I’ll have to get up.  And walk outside.  And retrieve a yo-yo.  That has not been worth the argument it just started.  But I’ll notice his hands are idle now, and so I’ll suggest he water the garden and the flowers.

So he’ll grab the hose with gusto and begin watering anything that moves or isn’t in the garden to include his sister. Until he sees me coming to help, and behold, he waters the garden.

But since the hose has been running for 45 minutes and because we still need groceries, I’ll turn off the water and give simple directions to get two children into the van.  Things like, let’s get dresssed and find our shoes.

Only those directions will be too vague and allow for detouring… A little boy will spy a drying paint tray, fill it with water from the fridge and step into it to rinse his grassy feet.  He’ll bring a string of beads because he’ll have seen them en route and wash those, too.  A little girl will claim that the weather is perfect now for playing outside and run and jump on the swing.

I’ll allow these distractions, as I’ll have just remembered the wagon is still in the van clogging the doorway.

Only while I yank out the wagon, two children, one of them dressed, will claim they need something to eat. Which I’ll mentally justify to spare the peace. 

Then before the snack can reach his hands, a small boy wearing just half a flip-flop will have melted to the floor…

And a wiser mother than I would have started all over and put him in bed…


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One Dam Day

On the 4th of July we’d decided to drive the extra two hours to see the Grand Coulee Dam.  We’d driven five hours to visit friends in eastern Washington.  So two additional hours (if you’re streaking through sagebrush at 75 mph in a blue van to see the biggest dam in the country), seemed like a bargain.  We wouldn’t intentionally make a seven hour trip to anywhere–dam or no dam– with our children who neither sleep in the car nor ask creative questions about the time or the mileage.  So uh…this was it.  The Grand Coulee Dam.

Only I’d been there before and knew what to expect.  Nevermind I was ten at the time and the 4th of July Laser Light Show was cool in name only and projected stick figures of light onto the dam’s spillways.  Or that for all the anticipation of the Laser Light Show, I’d never felt such disappointment–well…except for Christmas that same year when I’d pleaded for a drum set–a real one–and unwrapped instead an ornament of a drum.  An. Ornament. But other than that, the dam experience was sitting in second.  Distant second.  The Laser Light Show part, anyway.

But my family had never seen the dam up close.  And the more I worked at describing the dam, the smaller the thing actually sounded.  But it’s massive.  And to experience the crushing sound of the spillways, bursting simultaneously with thousands of tons of water is really one of those things that sticks to the wall of your memory. One of those things you want your kids to see.  Your husband, too.  And the reason you drive slightly over the speed limit on a holiday to see it.

Only it’s the 4th of July, which we knew, of course.  And the dam and its spillways are on holiday hours.  Which means that for all the millions of tons of concrete staring back at us, only a trickle of water is spilling through.  And only a trickle will spill through until ten p.m., followed by the Laser Light Show at eleven, by which time we will be long gone, burning rubber in the opposite direction listening to someone sing his ABCs.

I can imagine given these last twenty years or so that the Laser Light Show has shaken itself up a bit and is likely nothing short of amazing. I’d like to see it.  And for the sake of the lousy trickle imbedded as my family’s only memory of the greatest dam ever built, I think we might be back. 

 Then we’ll be able to say for certain, “we had a damn fine time!”

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A Day in Her Life

At times I think she is better suited as his mommy than I am. 

If he is to potty train in this lifetime, she will likely be the one who walks him through it.   He trusts her, and on his own time schedule will do just about anything she suggests, even if it’s aiming his pee pee at the toilet.  Only yesterday I overheard her giving him a heart-to heart in the middle of the backyard.  She held his hand with one of hers and pointed with her other toward the apple trees and explained, “we only pick the apples when they’re red. Okay, Buddy?” And he nodded and said, “okay, sis,” and then the two of them zipped off to the swings, important matters far behind. 

At 8 p.m. they hoot and holler and waste more bars of soap in the bath washing the walls than they do themselves.  Then two naked bodies dragging wet towels come bounding down the stairs with the announcement that he climbed out of the tub all by himself.  She couldn’t be prouder.

Which is why sometimes, we forget that she’s six.  We forget that six year olds occasionally stand on one leg or walk around when they eat losing half their egg salad to the floor.  Or leave their swimsuits inside out in the hallway, or cut out 13 paper snowflakes to tape onto every door in the house and then abandon their paper scraps right where they fell.  Or pack library books to grandma’s house with nary a care about bringing them home.  Or moan, “I just want to spend time with you,” while I stir hot jam on the stove, answer the phone and sweat to keep an eyeball on her brother. 

And we forget that at six, it’s still okay to do these things.

Which is why I pray today that I remember that this six year old girl with the missing front teeth still wants to cuddle.  Still wants to peel the butter wrapper and measure the flour for me; still dreams about doing crafts with glitter. Still lives for being tickled.

And who might still play along when I ask, “Guess what?”  And then smile and say, “what?” And I’ll whisper or shout or wink, “I love you!”  But then since her brother is calling from upstairs, she’ll keep it quick, “I love you, too, Mom!” and dash to his rescue.  My loving six year old girl.

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Toes of Sorrow; Toes of Joy

I’ve slipped away from our slumber party, as his eyes have finally closed and his tears are all used up.  For now. 

And this once…or maybe it’s already the thirtieth time, I’ll rehash those ten seconds.  The ones where he asks me if he can get a pair of scissors down so he can cut the grass in the backyard.  And I say yes, and I look away because as tricky as it seems, he has been getting scissors down from the high counter on his tip toes for months.  Only this time, it’s different.  And as he reaches above his head for the glass jar, it tips from the counter, rolls off the edge and crushes down on his 3 year old toes, still full of scissors.  I cannot remember at this point who is crying louder.  I think it’s him.  But I can hardly hear over the shouting in my own mind, a barrage of self-deprecation, “How could you?   How? Could? You?”  And I simply don’t know.  Believe me…I don’t .

So I could do no less than hold my small boy while he slept.  Fitfully.  Painfully.  Wakefully–asking again and again for his ouchie to go away. Then reversing roles and patting my frazzled hair and telling me, “it’s okay, mommy.  It’s okay.” How I want to believe him.

Well, here in the quiet before even a neighborhood dog has barked or the early risers have idled their cars, I’ve gushed my gratitude to God.  Slumber parties have that effect. I know broken toes will heal.  In time.  God has the technology! And when I forgive myself…may it be soon…so will I.

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The Visit

My three year old made it out the front door without his  shoes.  Hardly a surprise. The screen door was giving its last hesitation before finally clicking closed, and thinking he was being left behind, he ditched the shoes and squeezed his hiny out. Which I mentally decided was fine. We were only headed next door.

Our neighbors are retired and don’t have children, so bless their hearts for ever extending an invitation our way. 

We were coming over to say ‘hello’ to the black and white declawed cat they were watching for a friend and to peek at a birdhouse they’d had, which still held in it a leftover nest. Well, the cat was no dumby. After putting up with two crippling pats on the back, just her tail could be seen from behind the plant. Swishing.  No fluttering of the feathered cat toy (by my daughter) or stabbing of the same cat toy through the leaves of the plant (by my son) were going to convince her to extend a whisker.  Smart, smart kitty.

As for the birdhouse, my neighbor’s sweet explanation was lost on my son. He’d taken his quick peek and then pranced off with his bare feet.  He needed something to tug on, to uproot; something he could get his hands all over.  Something like hmm… the tumbled petrified wood pieces my neighbor had in a glass dish on the top of her glass coffee table.  Which are polished and make a breaking sound when dropped on glass.  And which made my retired neighbor smile and say, “it’s okay.”  When I was pretty sure it’s wasn’t.

So for the sake of my neighbor’s blood pressure, her petrified wood pieces, the frightened declawed cat and the fact we’d been there 12 minutes, we subtley slunk out her front door.  We pleasantried and sashayed from her yard to mine. Which was time enough for both my children to burst like fireworks from our front door carrying scissors.  And hardly enough time for me to pull  my arms from my short’s pockets to catch my neighbor lest she crumple in our driveway and need immediate CPR.

But all is well, friends.  No neighbors were physically hurt during this quarter hour. And I look forward to our next visit about this time next year.

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All the Pretty Shells

He hung back from us a bit, meticulously gathering the prettiest shells from the beach.  When he looked up, we were yards away.  “Wait. Wait for me,” he shouted.  Before we could turn our attention elsewhere, he jockeyed his way over the rocks still cradling his shells.  “See, ” he beamed.  And with two hands extended he showcased his wares.  White ones and green ones and brown ones. All sparkly.  All refracting in the sunlight.  All gorgeous shards of broken glass.

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The Forbidden Fruit

 If you’ve driven through Eastern Washington lately–or ever–and spied an apple orchard in your peripheral or if you grew up there like I did, then you can be certain of one thing. The apples aren’t ready for picking yet. They’re tiny and hard.  Pale-green and wiry.  And they taste how you’d expect they would 3 months from maturation.  Completely awful.

Over here on the western side of Washington, we’ve got apples, too.  They’re not ready either.  Tiny, hard, green and gross.  And same 3 month wait.

I can tell you confidently that our backyard apple trees are no different.  Not ready.  However, I can’t predict how long they’ll last.  Minutes? Months?

Last summer my husband doted on the two apple trees he’d bought, all but naming them and taking them on walks.  Then to show their appreciation they produced a single piece of fruit between the two of them.  One apple. Which was then pulled with two hands from its scrawny branch by the visiting neighborhood boy.

This is my son. Nevermind that he’s wearing his sister’s last year’s Easter dress.  Or that he just spun around the dining room and down the hallway and was completely impressed with how far out ‘his’ dress went.  Or that his plucking of this unready apple leaves us with just three left.  The question is:  Why must he show me his little puckered lips when he says he’s sorry? 

Because I can’t remember now if I should be upset.

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