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  • Pluto Is On The Outs

    May 29, 2009

    Before Sean could even talk, he became interested in the solar system. I have an old book on the solar system that I picked up at a garage sale or somewhere and we have leafed through it many times over.

    A week or so ago, he came home from school with a Weekly Reader and he was very excited to show it to me because it was on the solar system.  He held it up to his chest and pointed to each planet and gave me a little lecture on the properties of each planet.  Verily I say to ye, I have learned more from this child than I ever learned in school. He makes learning way more fun than Sister Edwina ever did.

    “Now you may notice that one of the planets is missing,” he said in his teacher voice.

    “Oh really?” I asked.

    “Yes.  Pluto is no longer a planet,” he stated as matter of fact.

    “Oh. I wonder why that is. Pluto was a planet when I was growing up.”

    “I don’t know,” he said, “But Pluto is on the outs.”

    Maybe by the time Sean’s kid is teaching him about the planets, Pluto will be back in the good graces of the solar system.

    This Boy

    May 25, 2009


    This here is a boy after my own heart.

    We love art and words and cooking and taking pictures and telling stories and clouds and collecting leaves and rocks and silliness and hanging out together doing nothing.

    And I want to do as much of that as possible with this boy before he grows up and has a change of heart.

    Impulse Does Not Come With Reverse

    May 17, 2009

    And now, time for a pointless story. Oh wait. They are all pretty much pointless.  Very well then.

    So then, the other day Sean dropped a gummy bear on the floor. He picked it up and started to put it in his mouth.  In keeping with Section 2, Article 4, Paragraph 3.5 of the Mothering Handbook, I instructed him not to eat it and to put it in the trash instead.  I’m not one to freak out about that kind of thing too much. I’ve been known to eat a potato chip or two off the floor, but it’s right there in the handbook and I’m working towards my mothering merit badge.

    He looked at me for a split second and then popped it in his mouth and quickly swallowed it. And then continued to look at me without so much as blinking.

    Now, according to the same handbook, this was a clear health and safety violation, meaning when one goes against mama, they are risking their health and safety.

    But I let him off the hook.  I gave him a light scolding for disobedience and a small lecture about how one probably shouldn’t eat stuff off the floor, citing the episode on Myth Busters where Jamie and Adam debunk the five-second rule. And I let it go at that.

    Normally, when Sean is blatantly disobedient, correction is swift and certain. But on that day I saw something of myself in that little gummy gobbling boy. I was reminded that sometimes at that age, the things we do are less a result of disobedience so much as that we are victims of the laws of forward motion. Sometimes, we want to be obedient, we want to be good, we do.  It’s just that we are unable to stop an impulse that has already fired — a lot like trying to put a speeding bullet back in the gun.

    When I was in about the third grade, I was walking between two rows of desks from the front of the class room towards the back. Just before I got to David Kruger’s desk, a paper he was working on slid off his desk and floated this way and then that before it settled on the floor.

    Now David was a very meticulous sort of guy, from his crew cut to the way he always colored in the lines.  Well, there was David’s paper on the floor and I could have probably stepped over it, but for some reason, a reason I still don’t understand, I stepped right on his paper leaving a big dusty footprint.

    And it’s not that I was bad or mean, unless you were to ask one of my brothers, it was just that I was caught up in forward motion and I couldn’t stop myself. And I have to tell you, to this day, I can still see that paper lying on the floor with my footprint on it and I still feel badly about it.  Sometimes being able to remember everything that ever happened to you is a curse.

    Naturally David wailed at the injustice. “Aaak! She stepped on my paper!” he bawled with all due indignation.

    The teacher looked up from her desk. I did my best impression of innocence. And because she was probably down to her last nerve and more interested in peace than justice, she suggested to David that I probably didn’t do it on purpose.

    Oh sweet undeserving grace and mercy how I adore thee.

    “Yes she did!” he gasped, “She looked right at me and stepped on my paper!” It was true. I did. And I did it without so much as blinking.  He was aghast. He look at me and then back at the teacher in disbelief.  His face was red.  I shrugged my shoulders and walked back to my seat, probably not even offering an apology.

    So David, I want to apologize. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to step on your paper. I just couldn’t exactly stop myself.

    And neither could Sean which is why he got sweet undeserving grace and mercy as opposed to time out.

    * * *

    Speaking of obedience, I’m over here too if you are following the on-line Bible study.

    Excellence In Nursing

    May 14, 2009

    When I was little, I was in and out of the hospital a lot.  My kidneys never seemed to work right until I was about nine or ten.

    I remember one time when I was about five, I was there by myself, sitting in the hallway in a wheelchair and my neighbor who was a young nurse in her 20s at the time, sought me out and sat beside me. She patted my arm and looked me in the eye and made me feel safe.

    I remember sitting in that wheel chair, feeling the warmth of her hand on my forearm and looking at her white hose and nurse cap.  Even at five, I was overly self-reliant and a stubbornly brave soldier, but I remember the feeling of relief wash over me at seeing her familiar face.  I think from that day, I’ve always had a respect and admiration for nurses. They represent something to me that feels like security.

    This afternoon, I had the honor of attending a program at my hospital recognizing excellence in nursing.  I call it “my” hospital because there are many hospitals in my area but this is the one I choose even though it is in a terribly inconvenient location for me.  Ergo, it is “my” hospital.

    I have had the privilege of having a number of my spare parts removed at this hospital over multiple occasions and each time the care I received from the nursing staff and the patient care technicians was beyond excellent.  And each time I wrote a letter to the hospital president to bring this to his attention, naming names as I am prone to do. And each time he responded promptly and personally with a note of appreciation which told me that the culture of excellence in patient care starts at the top in this hospital.  This is an organization that prizes the human-to-human dynamic.  And that’s the kind of hospital you want to be in should the occasion arise.

    As I sat in the auditorium, I watched different nurses come to the front to receive recognition awards in various categories.  I thought about how being a nurse is one of the very few careers where you can really make a difference in the life of another human being;  the rest of us are just pushing paper from here to there.  Nursing is one of the few jobs where you put your hands on another human and you look them in the eye. Not everyone can do that.  There is nothing impersonal about nursing.

    I thought about the nurses who cared for me after each of my surgeries, who did things for me that only my mother should have to do, and did so with respect and dignity, who when they came to my room to attend to me, made me feel like I was the most important person in the world, who were terribly concerned that my pain was manageable, who would explain everything and empower me with information, who knew when to give sympathy, when to cheerlead and when to prod – who would look me in the eye and pat my arm and make me feel safe.   Nurses who cared not just for me but about me, a human,  rendered vulnerable and helpless by circumstances beyond her control.

    If you know a nurse, remember to tell them from time to time how much you appreciate what they do to make the world a better place.  And if you’ve been cared for by an excellent nurse, take the time to write a letter and let someone know.

    That Face

    May 13, 2009

    “Mom, why are you making that face?” he asked. I detected a note of worry in his voice.  I was yanked up out of my dark thoughts and into the bright light of the moment. I stopped what I was doing and looked up.

    My five-year-old was sitting at the breakfast bar eating a piece of toast. A circle of crumbs and jelly outlined his mouth.  I wanted to lean across the counter and kiss away the crumbs.  He was watching me wipe down the kitchen counter and load the dishwasher and attend to 99 other things I wasn’t even aware I was doing.

    I had no idea I was making a face.  I was engrossed in reliving some old hurt.  I was playing the starring role in my own long-gone drama.  I was totally oblivious that I was even in my kitchen until Sean asked me why I was making that face, a face that he found troubling.  It was like one of those moments when you put your car in park and turn off the engine and then it occurs to you that you don’t even remember driving there.  You have no idea how you got there.

    I stopped wiping the counter. I looked at him and cocked my head.  “What face?” I asked, “What are you talking about?”

    “You are making your mouth in a line, like this — ” And then he pressed his lips together, the upper and lower disappearing into a straight white line. His mouth looked like the capital letter I on its side.  It was cute they way he did it.

    “And your eyes are curly,” he added.


    He nodded. He narrowed his eyes into slits and then peered at me through a ruffle of long dark eye lashes.

    I sighed. I recognized that face.  I was busted.

    “What were you thinking about?” he asked, concerned.

    “Oh nothing. I don’t even know,” I lied.  I knew what I was thinking about. I just didn’t know why.  Why would a reasonable person dwell in a long ago moment of  hurt instead of a current moment of joy, where there is a boy within arms reach,  with jelly on his face?

    I went into the bathroom, looked into the mirror, and made the face. The capital letter I on its side and curly eyes stared back at me.  No wonder his little heart was troubled.

    By this time next year, I will be 50.  I have an age spot in the shape of Illinois on the side of my face and a growing flock of crow’s feet. Except for the scalpel, there’s not much to be done about the effects of the past 49 years.  Except to resolve to dwell in the present.

    I Digress And Call It A Post

    May 11, 2009

    So then, yesterday was Mother’s Day. Or Sunday. Whatever. To me, Mother’s Day ranks right up there with Boxing Day. I can take it or leave it.  I know. In your head right now, you are saying, “What kind of mother doesn’t like Mother’s Day!” Did you think I couldn’t hear that?

    Regardless of whatever personal issues I have with the highest of the Hallmark holy days, I am still obligated to participate.  I crumble easily under the weight of societal expectations to buy flowers and cards and to festively order others to “Have a happy (insert occasion) day!” I just go along. I grumble, but I go along.

    Texas has been gray and wet for what seems like two years now, but according to the newspapers it has actually only been two weeks.  And yesterday, Mother’s Day, was no different.  So we drove up to Tuna under a gray cloud of drizzly rain to have lunch with Memaw to celebrate Mother’s Day.

    When we arrived, we exclaimed “Happy Mother’s Day” in a festive tone and then we sat down to eat too much.  Papa George had fixed us a yummy meal and it was swell all the way around even though I had to do the dishes.

    When we got home late in the afternoon, we noticed an odd bright orb in the sky, so we Googled “bright orb in the sky” and we were delightfully surprised to find out that it was the sun. A few little sunbeams and my girlish giddy and glee returned to wash away all my sour feelings surrounding having a national day set aside to honor the fact that I managed to procreate.

    A few sunbeams were all it took for Sean too.  He raced into the house and put on his swimming suit.  And when a 38-pound boy wearing a swimming suit, snorkel and mask is standing in your den, the cuteness will short circuit your brain and you will be rendered powerless to do anything other than say “Okay!”  And that’s how we ended up at the swimming pool late in the afternoon on Mother’s Day.

    In my opinion, the water in the swimming pool was fuh-reee-zzzzing!  But according to Sean, the water was “refreshant!” Although my research is not scientific, I believe that human children learn to discern uncomfortably cold swimming pool water around the same time they develop sense enough to come in out of the rain. Unlike chickens however, human children will not drown if they look up when it’s raining. This fact, I have proven scientifically. I’m not sure how that relates to anything heretofore.

    So, I sat a safe distance from the edge of the pool and its uncomfortably cold water to watch my scrawny little boyfriend jump in and out of the pool about 658 times;  each time crafting a unique approach and/or creative pose for the amusement of his mother.

    “Mom!” he shouted as zipped past in a blur, “Memaw’s AND swimming, all in the SAME day! This is the best day EVER!” And then he disappeared into a big splash of chilly water.  My heart was drenched in joy.

    So yeah, Mother’s Day was the best day ever.  And so was every day of the last five and a half years.


    May 9, 2009

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    The Kindergarten Mat

    May 8, 2009

    When Sean was about two, I bought him one of those kindergarten mats at Walmart.  I’m sure you know the kind I’m talking about:  plastic, red on one side and blue on the other, folds into fours.  If you are like me, you probably had one yourself when you were in kindergarten. And that is exactly the reason I bought it — because I had one. Nostalgia, pure and simple. That and impulse.

    Be that as it may, we have had that mat for three years now and so far it has not once been used as mat upon which to nap.

    The first year we had it, the mat was a ticket booth. Sean would set it on its edge into a square. He would then stand inside the square and alternately take and sell invisible tickets, just like a little scalper. Over the course of any afternoon I would buy and redeem hundreds of tickets. I was a loyal and enthusiastic customer.

    The next year, the mat was a boat. He would lay it out on the breakfast room floor and spend hours outfitting it and laying in supplies for the journey – a tiny lawn chair with a built-in umbrella, Goldfish, sippy cup of milk, matchbox cars, plastic animals, books — you know, all the seafaring necessities. And then he and I would set sail for far away places.

    This year the kindergarten mat is a surf board. He puts it on top of the coffee table and hangs ten.  I stand on the back and shoo the sharks away.

    And now, this school year is about to come to a close.  In September he will start kindergarten.

    And maybe then, the kindergarten mat will be a kindergarten mat.

    Chocolate Strawberries

    May 6, 2009

    I love to cook.  To me, cooking is not just a life skill but a creative outlet and my way of lovin’ on people.  And Sean seems to be cut from the same cloth. He has been standing at my knee in the kitchen since,  well, since he could stand.

    I won’t tell you all the things he can already do in the kitchen because I don’t want you to send blazing emails about how he should be wearing a helmet when standing in front of a hot stove with a sharp knife and what kind of mother would let …  But the boy knows his way around the kitchen and that makes me very proud.

    Yesterday I picked up some strawberries at the store that were so red and fat and just as tasty as they were pretty.  Sean suggested that we dip them in chocolate and take them to our neighbors.  I love how that boy thinks.




    Of course we had to taste a few first. Just to make sure.


    Yummy!  And the strawberries were good too.

    Mourning The Mourning Dove

    As quickly as she came into my life, she was gone.

    Yesterday morning, I checked on my sweet little dove.  She was sitting quietly in her nest in the Carolina jasmine, just the same as ever.

    Although she did not seem thrilled to see me, she did not glare at me either.  I suspect that is only because the dove lacks the ability to glare or cast disparaging looks. With no eyebrows, the dove is stuck with an all purpose blank expression, a lot like Jessica Simpson.  Otherwise, upon the sight of me, she probably would would have narrowed her eyes and curled her lips. If she had lips.  Another problem.  It’s also probably good that doves can’t make gestures. The symbol of peace indeed.

    So early this afternoon, I went outside to get the mail and I couldn’t stop myself from toddling up the driveway to check on her again.  I was surprised to find that her nest was empty! Very surprised. No dove, no eggs, no feathers. Nothing. No Tom, not even a note.

    I assumed that when the eggs hatched that she would hang around until she saw her young out of the nest and then she would fly off into the sunset, but not before perching on my kitchen window ledge, tapping on the glass with her delicate slender beak and then casting me a knowing and grateful look for all I had done for her.  I would dab a tear from my eye with a dish towel and wave her off. “Go on you crazy bird,” I would say, “Get out of here! Go see the world!” And then she would spread her wings to fly, but pause one last time, wink her round black eye at me and then be off.  I would rush to the window and wave as she melted into the sky and became a dot in the distance.

    Or something like that.

    When I told Sean that the dove was gone, he said he thought it was my fault, that she had left because I had disturbed her.

    Perhaps so.  I was a terrible landlord, I know that – nosy and overly interested. I was Mrs. Roper, not in a caftan, but in a frighteningly sad pink chenille robe.

    For more than a week she had put up with cold rain, hail and high winds.  But it was me dropping in on her and asking all kinds of personal questions that sent her over the edge. She just couldn’t take another day.  Perhaps  it all became too much and she threw herself in front of a cat. We will never know.

    And now (dramatic pause, dropping chin to chest) I must mourn my mourning dove.

    No, really. I’ll be fine. (sniff sniff) Carry on.

    ~The end~