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  • Limit Two Protocol

    May 30, 2008

    When I was at my Aunt Jean’s house a while back, I noticed that while she didn’t keep canned goods in the bathroom, she did have a stash of probably 25 or 30 giant Snickers bars. In the kitchen that is, not the bathroom. And it wasn’t even Halloween.

    It was surprising to see so many candy bars because you never see her eat anything like that. Aunt Jean is tall and thin and regal and dignified and not given to self-indulgence. When I asked her about them, she said that when she was growing up, one of the oldest of seven very poor children, all she ever wanted was a big old candy bar all to her self. And now that she can afford them, she buys them because she can. But only when they are on sale.

    Let me just stop here and say I would never have a stash of Snickers. Not because I’m not one to “stock up” on a commodity as precious as that, but because in order to have a stash I would have to have at least enough restraint not to eat them all. Whenever I get my hands on a Snickers bar, I chew off the paper with my teeth and then I toss it up in the air. And then I roll on it until I get the scent of Snickers on my neck. And then finally, I lay on the floor on my tummy with my feet out behind me and I gnaw on it and growl at anyone who looks my direction. So when she offered me one, I declined just to avoid that whole scene.

    Anyway, apparently Aunt Jean really wanted her own liter of Diet Cherry 7-Up when she was growing too because when she sent me out to the garage to get something out of the extra refrigerator, I was confronted with an imposing wall of Diet Cherry 7-Up. When I asked her about it she said that Albertson’s had a super duper sale on them a while back, but it was limit two. “My goodness!” I said, “Limit two!? How on earth did you get so many?”

    “Well, you know,” she said her voice trailing off. “I went to the store and I bought two.” She paused here to lightly pat her hair into place and then stretched her neck as though working out a kink. And then she evasively looked up and off to the left at nothing in particular. “And?” I asked. “Well, then I went home and…. I chaaaaanged clothes…. (cough) andthenIwentbackfortwomore (cough).”

    In case you didn’t know, it’s in the fine print on the back of the bottles. In order to legally purchase two additional liters of Limit Two soda, you must have changed clothes. And not just in the car either. You must go home and change into a completely different color blouse. If we were to look at the grocery store surveillance video the week Diet Cherry 7-Up is on sale we would see my good and proper Aunt Jean wearing dark sunglasses, going in and out of the store carrying two liters of Diet Cherry 7-Up at a time. And you might think the video was on a loop until upon closer inspection you would see that she had changed clothes making it totally legal.

    I then did a quick calculation in my head — four trips a day, four changes of clothes for seven days at which time limit two expires. And sure enough it adds up to a stash of enough Diet Cherry 7-Up that should last until the rapture at which time we will all be caught up in the air toasting the brethren with Diet Cherry 7-Up and Snickers.

    And oh what a day of rejoicing it will be. 

    * * * * *

    This post was originally published in February of 2007.

    The following is an excerpt from a recent email AD received from Aunt Jean:

    “Tell AM that Albertson’s is having a special on their sugar this weekend and the limit is one. That leaves me with a problem. I am out of sugar and would like more than one bag.  I am considering several changes of clothes but I will have to change in the parking lot. If I drove home to change, the cost of gasoline would cancel out my savings on the sugar.  Life has it’s problems. But I love you anyway.  Love, Aunt Jean.”

    My Aunt Jean cracks me up. Gotta love Tuna where clipping coupons is an investment strategy.

    Guest Towels As Explained To A 4-Year-Old

    May 28, 2008

    AM:  Here, Sean, don’t use those towels.  Use this one.


    Sean: But I like those towels.  Why can’t I use those towels?


    AM:  Those are guest towels.


    Sean:  (blinks)


    AM:  They’re for guests.


    Sean: (blinks) 


    Sean:  Am I a guest?


    AM:  No. You live here.  Here, here’s your towel.


    Sean:  Oh. (disappointed)  Why can’t I use the pretty towels? 


    AM: (blinks)


    AM:  Why indeed. 


    AM:  Here.  (hands over the pretty towel)  Be my guest. 


    The Salt Shaker

    May 25, 2008

    Sean does not yet hold his pencil properly.  I know.  If I were inclined towards over-parenting, I might be wringing my hands right now and consulting experts or at least Googling something. But I’m not.  As many of you know, I’m more inclined towards “Whatever Dude” parenting.


    It’s not that he can’t hold the pencil properly; it’s that he won’t hold the pencil properly. He holds it in his fist like a little caveman.


    When we sit down to color, I correct him.  Using the jaws of life, I loosen his little fingers from around the crayon and then reshape them into the proper position, the position that Harvard graduates and scholars everywhere use.


    He immediately readjusts his grip to the caveman.


    We stare at one another, like two chess players, each plotting their next move.


    “Whatever dude,” I say. “If you want to be the only kid in class still holding their crayon like a caveman, that’s up to you.”


    “Sometimes I just need to do things my own way,” he says defiantly.


    I sigh. 


    I know about having to do things ones own way.


    “Well Sean,” I say, “You’re going to make life really hard for yourself that way.”


    He’s four. He doesn’t know what I’m talking about. 


    I don’t want him to be like me, always having to do things my own hard way. Life is much easier when you are marching with the parade and not off doing your own Snoopy dance.


    “I’m going to get a notebook,” he announces boldly, “And I’m going to write down all my rules of what I want to do.”


    I think I know what he’s talking about.


    “Oh?” I ask, extremely interested.   “What is it exactly that you want to do?”


    “I want to shake salt on the floor,” he says quickly and decisively, with an edge.


    I stifle a laugh and try to suppress the image of leather jacket clad bad boys with turned up collars and salt shakers.


    Without a word, I get up and get the salt shaker. I hand it to him.


    For a minute, he just looks at it in the palm of my hand.  He takes it.


    We look at each other, expressionless, like two poker players.


    He hands the salt shaker back.


    “Ah,” I say. “Good choice dude.”


    It wasn’t the salt shaker he wanted. It was the power to make the decision.


    Tomorrow he may decide to shake salt on my floor.



    Walnuts And Watermelons – Everything You Really Need To Know About Pregnancy

    May 23, 2008

    No, not really.  I just thought that was a catchy title.


    So then.


    We have more books than we have space to put them, so last week, I decided to sort through some of them and cull out those with which I could bear to part.  I came across several books on pregnancy that, unfortunately, I won’t be in need of again so I set them aside to pass along.


    A wave of nostalgia washed over me, so I sat down and thumbed through one.  The chapter that described the changes that happen to the female body during  pregnancy caught my attention, perhaps because “someone” had highlighted almost every word.  As I read along, I was rapt once again, just like I had never read this information before.


    Even though I’ve been through a pregnancy and understand the basic process of gestation, the idea that another human being was formed perfect and whole from the makings of my own sorry body is still astonishing to me.  Astonishing!


    It’s even more astonishing to think that the egg that became Sean was in me, among a million others, before I was even born. I never can quite wrap my mind around that, to think that he’s always been with me in some way.  I suspect that if he was with me before my life began, then at some point he will be with me after this life as well.  That is my hope anyway and my faith in the promises of Jesus sustain that hope.


    I noticed that in one section I had underlined a paragraph that described how prior to conception my uterus was the size of a walnut, before eventually growing to be the size of a watermelon to accommodate the baby. And then after birth, at some point, it returned to its original walnut size.  




    The book did not mention that before conception, my heart was also the size of a walnut – an old hard black walnut that even the squirrels wouldn’t have.  During my pregnancy, it grew to be the size of a watermelon.


    It has not returned to its original size. 


    Mr. Malaprops

    May 22, 2008

    Sometimes, in a fit of motherly passion, I”ll scoop Sean up and smother him with kisses, telling him he’s so cute that I can’t stand it.  And then he squiggles and wiggles out of my arms and runs off, laughing and yelling “Yucky!”

    Last week, we were at the grocery store, and as we were checking out, he was chatting up the cashier, a grandmotherly type. 

    “You’re cute!” she cooed at him as I ran my credit card through the machine.

    “Yeah but my mom can’t stand me,” he told her.  “She says that all the time.”  And then for some reason,  he offered her this weird, crooked, sad little smile.

    The cashier narrowed her eyes and looked at me suspiciously.

    It probably didn’t help that Sean had a dirty face and had dressed himself that morning as a Hip Hop Rap artist on a golf outing.

    I shut my eyes and shook my head ever so slightly. 

    The effort it was going to take to explain that it was the level of his cuteness that I can’t stand vs. him which I can stand very tolerably (sigh), exceeded my mental bandwidth at that particular moment.  So I didn’t even try. 

    I think I exceeded my mental bandwidth just typing that sentence.

    In some local ladies Bible study, there’s a Wal-Mart cashier asking for prayers for the little boy whose mother can’t stand him.  

    Glenna’s Pink Calla Lily

    May 21, 2008

    Glenna's Pink Calla Lilly

    This pink calla lily belongs to Sean’s surrograte and local grandma and my sister/mother/mentor/friend — Glenna.  She knows how to grow beautiful things like flowers and friendships.

    I moved the pot it was in to the edge of her swimming pool to get the blue background and then contorted myself like a pretzel to get the shot. And then I fussed with the lighting on the edges in Photoshop.

    I am reminded of the verse in Matthew 6 where Jesus says of lilies of the field, that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed such as these.

    The Little Red Car

    May 20, 2008

    One of the problems of being an older parent of an only child — a child that is especially delightful and charming and works the strings of my heart like an angel strumming a harp — is not caving in and spoiling him rotten. It takes a lot of restraint. It takes a lot of that self-control stuff that I’m trying to teach him.

    Antique Daddy and I believe that over-indulging the desires of Sean’s heart would be to abuse him. We believe that it is good for Sean to not have everything he wants, to long for something a little bit, to have to save up for something.  I believe these things in theory.  In practice, I could use some practice.

    Grandparents do not believe this in theory or practice.

    * * * * *

    In the past year or so, every time we have gone to Wal-Mart, Sean asks if we can stop and look at the little battery operated cars – Barbie cars, Lightning McQueen cars, Jeeps, John Deere tractors. He stands in front of the wall of tiny vehicles and gazes upon their magnificence. His eyes sparkle with desire. I can see that he is imagining himself tooling around the neighborhood in the little red Lightning McQueen car waving to everyone he sees.

    “Mom, can we get one of those little cars?” he asks.

    “Well Sean, they’re really expensive. They cost about $300. That’s a lot of money,” I tell him.

    “Please Mom, I really want one,” he pleads.

    “I know you do. That would be a really big present. I’d have to talk to Daddy about that.”

    “Maybe?” he asks, hopefully.

    “Maybe someday,” I tell him. “We can’t buy everything we want.”

    He doesn’t really understand that.

    * * * * *

    Recently I got a Tuesday Morning ad in the mail and I noticed that they had a little red Dale Earnhardt battery-powered car for $99. I was sorely tempted to run down to Tuesday Morning and get Sean one because a) it was only $99 and b) I was imagining how his eyes would light up when he saw it.  And I love it when I make his eyes light up, it jump starts my soul.

    But I didn’t.

    What stopped me was a) I would have to explain to Antique Daddy that I had breached our agreement for $99,  b) the little red car would have to occupy space in our garage that we do not have and c) that whole not over-indulging my child theory I’m supposed to be practicing.

    * * * * *

    Just before Mother’s Day the phone rang and it was Papa George – Papa George the grandfather who is immune from the rules governing the over-indulgence of children.

    “Tell Sean I gotta surprise for him,” Papa George said in his Alabama drawl.

    “Oh George,” I sighed. “What have you done?”

    Papa George played the Grandpa card, confessed to buying the car, offered no apologies and hung up.

    So we went to Tuna to celebrate Mother’s Day, and there it was in the middle of the living room — the little red car of Sean’s dreams. It was half way hidden under a blanket. Like Houdini, Sean pulled the blanket away, clutched his heart and gasped in disbelief.

    “I can’t believe my eyes!” he screamed. “I have wanted one of these my entire life!”

    Now, even if the story were to end here, y’all would probably be thinking, “That Papa George! What a fantastic grandpa!” And you would be right, but you have no idea.

    Papa George is 81-years-old and his spine is crumbling. He has a hard time standing for 10 minutes at a time without white hot pain. It’s hard for him to get around. Yet he got up at 6am, drove to Tuesday Morning and stood in line for two hours to get Sean the little red car. Two hours.

    Photos Temporarily Unavailable

    Papa George doesn’t know how to love small.

    With no prodding from his parents, Sean jumped into the recliner with Papa George and gave him a big hug and a kiss and told him how much he liked the car.

    I don’t know if that eased Papa George’s back pain any, but I’m sure it was good medicine for his heart. It was for mine.

    I’m just hoping a boy can be a little bit spoiled and not be rotten.

    The Laundry Basket

    May 18, 2008

    Saturday, I did 734 loads of laundry.  Now I know how the people at the post office feel about the mail — it never stops. It just keeps coming. 


    Sometimes entire weeks will go by with the clean laundry not actually making it to it’s final destination.  Laundry gets washed, sometimes two or three times. Laundry gets dried —  eventually.  Laundry gets folded — more or less.  With good intentions, laundry gets put neatly into the laundry basket.  And then without notice, the laundry’s trip home is cancelled.  The laundry is forced to sit on the laundry tarmac, sometimes for weeks at a time, with no way to let the other socks and underwear know what happened to them.


    Then, at some point, it just seems easier to get dressed in the kitchen right out of the laundry basket.  And then at the end of the day, the clothes end up in a different laundry basket where the laundry cycle starts all over again.  Kind of like the laundry version of Groundhog Day.  And the socks and underwear, they heave heavy sighs and cry in frustration because all they want is to get home, to sleep in their own drawer. 


    In our next house, we are going to skip the pretense of having dressers and drawers.  We are just going to have laundry baskets.  Everyone, including the socks, will be much happier this way.

    School Cancellation Policy

    May 16, 2008

    We are not a co-sleeping family.  It’s just not what works for us.  But I will admit there are times when I think it would be so very nice if we were.  There are times when I still want to hold my baby close to my heart as I did when he was an infant.  I want to look into his sleeping face and listen to him breathe.  These sweet and uncomplicated days, they are waning.  Too quickly they fly away into the star encrusted galaxy, into forever and beyond. 


    Lately, Sean will wake up about 5:30 and come get in bed with us.  The gentle jingle jingle of Mr. Monkey announces the arrival of our visitor.  He tip toes to Antique Daddy’s side of the bed. Without a word, he throws a leg over and then clambers over him before wriggling down under the covers between us and falling back to sleep.  Shortly thereafter, I usually get up and enjoy that first cup of coffee and 30 minutes of a peaceful, sound-effects free house.


    Wednesday morning, I sat at my desk with my coffee and listened to the rain patter against the kitchen window as I worked on a writing project. When I looked up again, I was astonished to see that it was nearly 8am.  The house was still dark.  A storm grumbled quietly off in the distance.  Sean should be up by this time, eating breakfast and getting dressed.  We would be late for school.  Again.  I made my way to my bedroom to get him up and going.


    In a tangle of sheets and legs and arms, they were folded into the other, like an unopened flower.  I stood there for several minutes, watching them sleep, their breathing, synchronized and as steady and even as the rain that was falling against the windows.  I wondered if their dreams intersected in some unknown and secret place. I thought of how they are linked together for all eternity through me.


    I could not make myself disturb them.  I did not want to send this moment hurling off into the galaxy.


    There will be plenty of school days in his life, but the days when he can nestle into the protective curve of his daddy’s arm and dream little boy dreams are too few now.


    I backed out of the room and quietly shut the door.


    School was cancelled that day due to snuggling.


    May 15, 2008

    sean and marigold

     Sean likes to pick flowers for me.  Not the stem, just the flower.  The other day, while I was out, he picked a marigold from my garden and put it in this little vase to surprise me with upon my return.  Much like the multiple reflections in this photo, when he showed it to me, it made me happy to see how happy it made him to make me happy.