Teamwork

How many children does it take to pour salad dressing from a bottle? If they are mine, three.

Dinner tonight consisted of choose-your-nut butter and jelly sandwiches (three of us had fresh almond butter while the other two chose peanut) and raw broccoli florets on the side. It was a late dinner after baseball and volleyball so most had snacked and no one needed much to eat.

Jane busted out the well-used bottle of Ranch dressing and with considerable effort, managed to get out enough for her use. Daryl then took the bottle and got some as well, again, not easily.

Hal looked at the two of them, picked up the bottle, looked at it, and tossed it into the recycle bin, announcing, “Daddy! We are out of Ranch dressing!”

Jane, who has little faith in grocery items being replaced in a timely fashion, reacted quickly, grabbing the bottle before it hit the bin and insisting there was still plenty of dressing in the bottle.

Hal appeared to think about it for a minute before opening the bottle and turning it upside down. He started squeezing the sides of the bottle in rapid fashion. I told him to be patient.

Jane reached over and grabbed the side of the bottle. Hal did not let go. As Hal squeezed the bottle, Jane began to shake it up and down. When dressing did not immediately appear, Daryl reached over and hit the top of the bottle with his fist.

The sight of all three of them each performing their own preferred method of dressing extraction at the same time brought a smile to my face. For once, it didn’t break out into a fight with some “Let me do it!”s and “Fine! I was just trying to help!”s. With a little teamwork, they soon had the dressing flowing and everyone ate their meal in peace.

Teddy’s Wisdom

The boys had a large stick in their room. In make-believe world, it was a bow, used for taking down evil orcs or some other manner of beasts. To the dog, it was just a stick, something to carry around.

And so it was that Rose found the stick and picked it up, walking out of the room. Hal was fascinated.

“Mommy! Did you know that Rose can carry a big stick?”

“But she can’t walk softly,” amended his Dad.

I love little moments like this when I feel like we are acting out a children’s movie. Enjoyable on the surface for the kids but a little extra reference that only the grown-ups understand.

*And, yes, I realize the quote is “speak softly” but that’s not what my husband said. It would have been accurate though. The dog doesn’t speak any more softly than she walks.

Addendum: I wrote this short bit a few days ago. It was trumped first by a tumbling bottle of soda and then by a boy who thought a potholder was a towel. Tonight the house seems especially quiet. Rose is spending the night at the vet’s office after slicing her foot pretty bad while chasing rabbits in the yard. It seems appropriate to share one of her tales in honor of the poor dog, who is certainly missing us as much as we are missing her.

Bring a Towel!

Daryl was being a bit standoffish this evening. At every opportunity, he disappeared to his room. While fixing dinner, I called him into the kitchen with a simple, “Daryl! Come here!”

“Why?!”

“Because I called you.”

When he entered the room and I asked him to unload the dishwasher, he expressed his displeasure and reluctantly went about completing the task. As he grabbed an ice cube tray and tried to rush across the room, the water sloshed out and onto the floor.

“Make sure you get a towel and clean that up.”

Several minutes later, I looked up from the spaghetti to see that Daryl was gone and the sizable puddle was still on the floor.

“Daryl!”

“What?!”

“Come here, please!”

“Why?!”

“Because I called you.”

He entered the room and I pointed to the floor. “Remember? You need to clean up the water you spilled.”

He flopped and flailed about as I headed to the pantry for some vegetables. When I returned, he was gone and the water had been spread around the floor, but was still very much present.

“Daryl!”

“WHAT?!”

“Come here, please!”

“WHY?!”

“Because I called you.”

“Bring a towel!” added his dad.

This time when he entered, I again pointed to the floor and said, “You didn’t dry the floor enough. It’s still really wet. You need to get a towel.”

The flopping and flailing doubled in intensity from the last time and he stomped into the kitchen and opened the drawer that holds the kitchen textile items.

“I did use a towel! I used one just like this one!”

I looked down at the item in his hand. “That’s a potholder, Daryl.”

Once the laughter subsided and as I hugged him tight, I said, “No wonder you couldn’t get the water soaked up. Potholders aren’t very absorbent. Go get one of the bathroom towels.”

He pulled the disappearing act again at dinner – leaving quietly with a bite of spaghetti and some vegetables still on his plate.

“Daryl!”

“What?”

“Come here!”

“Bring a towel!” called his dad.

When Daryl walked into the room actually carrying a towel, everyone again dissolved into laughter – including him. At our insistence, he finished his dinner before leaving again.

He was called in several more times. Once to rinse his plate, once to rinse his dessert bowl, and one final time to put away the cups from the dishwasher that he had left on the counter.

“Daryl!”

“What?!”

“Come here!”

A little voice… Hal’s… called from the bathroom down the hall, “Bring a towel!”

I looked up at my husband and smiled as he and Jane giggled quietly. Fortunately, all of tonight’s humor at Daryl’s expense was handled by him with good grace.

Renegade 7-Up

While getting ready for school and work this morning:

There’s a muffled crash followed by some things tumbling and another crash somewhere down the hall.

Then a hushed “Hal!”

We begin our journey toward the noises when we hear a strangled and quiet call: “Help?!”

Turns out that a bottle of 7-up fell out of the fridge, knocking the retaining bar off one of the door shelves, which in turn caused all the salad dressings and other items to tumble to the ground.

Daryl apparently attempted to resolve the situation quietly before deciding he needed some help.

One of Those Days

You ever have one of those days? You know… the one where you put your toothpaste on your toothbrush and then rinse it off even though you didn’t brush your teeth? Your brain goes out to lunch and leaves you hanging? Sure you have. Ever had a dozen of those days all at once?

I got in the shower after my morning run one recent morning. Like everyone else, I have a routine. First I shave my legs (if that’s on the agenda), then I wash my body, ending with my face, then I shave my armpits (if needed), then wash my hair.

This particular morning was to see the entire order of operations, but for some reason, after washing the rest of my body, I opted to shave my pits before washing my face. I don’t know why. When I then washed my face, I congratulated myself on a quick and efficient shower and turned off the water.

I stood there dripping while my mind went blank. When it returned, I realized that I had not washed my hair.

Before I go into the shower, I bring my clothes into the bathroom. Then I dress before leaving the room. On this day, however, after donning only my undergarments, I chose to return to the bedroom to make a phone call.

After hanging up the phone, I sat blankly on my bed. What should I do next? Ah, yes, I thought, looking down at myself, I should get dressed. With that thought, I stood and returned to the bathroom, where I put on my pants and picked up my shirt.

Something didn’t feel right. I don’t wear this shirt with a bra on. Why not? I looked at the shirt in my hands and then the pants I was wearing. I was putting my pajamas on! Oh, sheesh! What is going on?!

I finally succeeded in getting dressed in the appropriate clothing. Returning to the bedroom, I put on my makeup and applied deodorant. With a confident nod that I was almost ready to head to work, I walked down the hall to brush my teeth. (Still no sink in our bathroom). I’d almost reached the hall bathroom when I realized that my hair was still wet and unbrushed.

The fun continued at work. When I unlocked my screen, I was reminded that I needed to change my password. Fine. I’ll take care of that now.

I thought up a new one and entered it twice. It told me they didn’t match. Puzzled, I tried again. Same result. I studied the screen closer and realized I had entered it in the “old password” box and the first “new password” box.

With a sigh, I filled out all the boxes correctly. I was then informed that I did not have the authority to change my password. I had to call the help desk and by the time she was ready for me to enter my new password, I had forgotten it.

Needless to say, I bought a Mountain Dew that day. And warned my coworkers I wasn’t in the sharpest mental state. And eagerly awaited the end of the day.

Your Laugh

Dear Papa Bill,

I thought about you a lot tonight. It was my first year to participate in Relay for Life since shortly after Hal was born. I lined up next to the track for the Survivor Walk and before the first survivor reached me, I was fighting back tears. You were a survivor for quite awhile but eventually cancer took you from us. I was 32. Jane was 5. Daryl was 2.

Mom moved on. She’s happy again. I think you’d be pleased to know that. It wasn’t an easy trial to pass through but she’s doing alright. She has a good man in her life. He knew you and respects your memory. Five years ago, they sold the house that we lived in all those years and moved across town.

I was pregnant with Hal and picked the move day to share that with her. It might not have been the best idea I’ve ever had. Telling her that news on such a fragile day. She burst into tears, which surprised me… until she explained why. It was you. You wouldn’t ever meet Hal. Wouldn’t hold him, smile at him, make him laugh.

That was one of the last things that you and I talked about, there in the hospital when we all knew it was the end. You wanted your grandchildren to remember you. You were pragmatic about it. You knew that Aaron’s kids and Daryl were too young.

And so it was that I found myself walking the track tonight, holding Daryl’s hand. He asked me why I was sad. I told him that I missed you and then he asked why.

“Because he was my Daddy,” I said.

“I thought Grandpa Ed was your Dad.”

“He was. And is. Papa Bill was my step-dad, but really he was my daddy too.”

“Oh.”

“Do you remember him?” I held my breath. I was pretty sure I knew the answer.

“Not really.” {long pause} “Wait. Didn’t he have like a little beard? And glasses! I remember his glasses.”

Maybe he just remembers you from pictures or maybe he really remembers you, but I’ll take the comfort he threw my way tonight.

Later on, I was walking the Luminaria Walk with Jane. We walked hand-in-hand as I thought about you. And Aunt Barbara. And the kids’ godmother. And other people. But mostly you.

I thought about how we were so close when I was little and how we had grown apart when I married. I thought about how you weren’t perfect, how I had struggled with that once I was old enough to see it. I thought about how much you loved me and Aaron and mom. I remembered when I scratched my initials and yours in the wallpaper of the bathroom with a plus sign in between and “= love 4ever” after it. And then I began to sob.

Jane wrapped her arm around me and we continued to walk in a silent hug. I was grateful for the dark that hid my tears but even more grateful for the beautiful, wonderful girl walking beside me. I battled inside about whether to ask her the same question I asked Daryl. I was scared to hear the response.

You see, when we talked that last time, you knew Daryl wouldn’t remember you. It hurt, I could tell, but you accepted it. It was vitally important to you, however, that Jane remember. You were confident that she was old enough. Your greatest fear was that she wouldn’t. You didn’t want to be forgotten.

She remembered you intensely for a very long time. She’d burst into tears at random moments and tell us that she missed her Papa Bill. For a couple of years, she was very sensitive about sad events. She cried watching Because of Winn-Dixie because it reminded her of losing you. Now, everyone cries at the end of Old Yeller, but when she cried, she was thinking of you.

Most everyone moves on, given enough time…especially if they are young, and eventually she did too. I can still hear her little preschool voice saying “Papa Bill” – she said “Bill” more like “Bea-ul”. But now, her life is full of many things. I didn’t know if she remembered you or not.

So I kept warring with myself on whether to ask her. To know that she did would warm my heart. To know that she didn’t would break it.

She let go of my shoulders and took my hand, mumbling an apology about it being too hot. I tentatively asked her if she remembered you.

“Barely,” she responded, with a careful look at my face. “I remember what he looked like. And I remember his laugh.”

She remembers your laugh. I think that if she was destined to remember only one thing, that was the best thing to remember. She remembers your laugh and I hope that’s enough. I love you and miss you.

Your daughter,

The Manly Way

Daryl and Hal were discussing the relative merits of putting the cherry in your mouth whole and then spitting out the seed vs. holding it in your hand and gnawing at it until the pit can be dug out.

Hal was of the opinion that gnawing at it was easier. Daryl, being the more sophisticated older brother, disagreed.

“It’s definitely better to take it all in your mouth and then spit it out. It gets easier with practice. Eating sunflower seeds at every baseball game helps.”

“I like to eat sunflower seeds!” Hal said. “I crack them open and put the seed in my mouth and throw the shell on the ground.”

“I do it the manly way,” countered Daryl. “I put them in my mouth, crack them open, and then spit the shells out! We like to spit them at each other.”

“That is disgusting, Daryl.” Jane scrunched up her face at the thought.

“That’s because you’re just a lady and we are men.”

“You don’t have to be sexist.”

“I’m not. It’s true. Ladies get disgusted about everything. They are like ‘ooh’ and ‘ooh’.” He pitched his voice higher and raised his hands up in imitation of a grossed-out woman.

“Now you are being stereotypical.”

Oh, how quickly a conversation devolves. One minute we are all enjoying some fresh fruit. The next, we are busting out the heavy-duty labels. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep a straight face when your nine year old boy claims to be a “manly man”?

What’s the Capital of…?

As the boys played in the play area at Chick-Fil-A the other night, Jane sat with her parents and quizzed us on geography.

“What’s the capital of South Africa?” she asked.

“Johannesburg,” I answered.

“How do you know that?!?”

“It’s common knowledge,” her dad said.

“No it’s not! Fine, what’s the capital of Mexico?”

“Mexico City.”

“Guatamala?”

“Guatamala City.”

“Panama?” she started to laugh.

“Panama City. What’s the capital of Nevada?” I asked, turning the tables.

“What? I don’t know. Um. Nevada City?”

“No.”

“Um… how about… California City?”

“No, but that’s closer. It starts with Ca and ends in ity.” Eventually we got her to name it by giving the last name of a classmate named Carson. We moved on to other states. Her knowledge of state capitals was fairly weak.

“The capital of Florida…” she tried to answer, “…is… it’s like… Naomi. Right?”

“Are you trying to say Miami?”

“Yes! That’s it!”

“No, that’s not the capital of Florida.”

“But it’s pretty close to Miami, isn’t it?”

“No, actually the capital of Florida is about as far away from Miami as you can get and still be in Florida. It’s Tallahassee. How ’bout Kansas?”

“It’s not Kansas City, right? I mean, Kansas City is in Oklahoma.”

“What?!”

“I mean. It’s in Texas? No, wait… it’s somewhere… Missouri!”

“Actually it’s in both Missouri and Kansas, but what’s the capital of Kansas?”

“I don’t know.”

“Wichita*. How about Texas?”

“Houston.”

There was a moment of stunned silence before, “No, wait! I meant Austin! I meant Austin!”

“Wow,” her dad said. “I can’t believe you just said that.”

“I’m not even a Texan and I know the capital,” I added.

“It used to be the capital! It’s because of time travel! I travel with The Doctor, you see. I just forgot when I was. I’m confused. No, I’m…”

“Befuddled?” suggested her dad.

“Yes. Wait. No!”

I truly wish I had a recording of the conversation because I’ve forgotten many of the details. We traveled all over the world, naming capitals and rattling off facts, teasing each other and laughing the whole time. We all got to show off our knowledge and struggle through our weaknesses, like when I took several minutes to call to mind that Ottawa was the capital of Canada, while Jane grinned like the Cheshire Cat. She had classmates playing in the play area, but she chose to spend her time with us, exercising her brain. I truly cherish moments like this.

*Edit: To my great amusement, a friend on the East Coast, far, far away from Kansas, pointed out to me that Topeka is the capital of Kansas, the state that borders my husband’s and my home state. We also misstated the capital of India, but that one didn’t make it into the story. Proof that even the parents don’t always get it right.

The Colors of the World

Daryl hates to wear sunscreen. With his pale skin, however, wearing it is vitally important. And so it was that I was applying the lotion against his will before his ballgame this morning.

He looked down at his arms before I had a chance to rub it in and yelled in alarm, “I don’t want to be WHITE!”

“You are white, honey.”

“No! Not white white. I’m apricot.”

“Apricot?”

“Well, I’m not white. It’s more apricot. Or peach.”

This reminded me of a little preschool Jane who used to ask why some of the kids were called black.

“I mean, they aren’t black. They are brown. So why do people call them black?”

This view of the colors of the world has apparently stuck with her. One of her black classmates was recently insisting that he was not black. The other kids were looking at him incredulously.

“Jane understands. Don’t you, Jane? What color am I?”

“You are brown.”

“See?!”

I think those two are actually green. Two peas in a pod, they are. Taking the world so literally.

Happy Mother’s Day

As we left the ball fields tonight, we tried to decide where to go eat. The kids (for once) presented a unified front and asked for Chick-Fil-A. I was considering a local place that serves great catfish on Fridays, but was concerned about eating too much.

“It’s your choice,” my husband said. “Wherever you want to go.”

“Not fair!” Daryl called out, “You always let her pick!”

“Yes, see, we’re married. I like to leave the choice to her” was the response from the front seat. In the back, the following argument ensued.

“Well, you never listen to what we want!”

“That’s not true,” his sister butted in. “We just left a baseball game. That’s something you wanted. You said you wanted to play baseball and he listened.”

“But when we pick restaurants, he always tells her that she gets to pick!”

“That’s not true. Sometimes we get to pick. Besides, Sunday is Mother’s Day. She ought to get to pick.”

“So?! She’s going to get tons of presents for that!”

I’m getting tons of presents? I quietly asked my husband. Do I normally get tons of presents? I don’t remember that. He shrugged.

“She’s not going to get tons of presents, Daryl.”

I knew it.

“Yes she is. I’m giving her two presents and something else.”

“Was it expensive?”

“No.”

“Then what’s the big deal?”

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money for it to be valuable…”

That’s true.

“…and she shouldn’t get to pick what we have for dinner.”

“You aren’t being very nice to her. It’s Mother’s Day.”

“Not yet it isn’t. She should get to pick on Sunday. Not today. I want to go to Chick-Fil-A.”

“Yeah, I don’t want to go where Mommy said to go!” adds in Hal as we pull into the parking lot of the location I had quietly chosen during the argument.

“Oh, wait,” I told my husband. “We can’t eat here. Hal said so. I guess we’ll need to go to the catfish place after all.”

“No! We want Chick-Fil-A.”

“Then why don’t you guys quit arguing and open your eyes? We are here.”