Riddle Me This

{Spoiler Alert: If you happen to be on Facebook but have been living in a cave for the last week, this post will give away the answer to the riddle that has caused many of your friends to change their profile picture to a giraffe.}

A friend of mine recently changed her profile picture on Facebook to that of a giraffe because she had joined the “giraffe club” when she failed to answer a riddle correctly:

3:00am the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors, it’s your parents and they are there for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread, and cheese. What is the first thing you open?

I pondered the question for a little while. I’m really not very good at riddles. They aren’t made for logical, linear thinkers. I started to consider the different food items before reminding myself, No! Riddles never have to do with the obvious! It won’t be one of the listed items. Concentrate on something else. Look at it differently.

That’s when I got it: the door. You’d open the door first. I confidently shot off the response to my friend, knowing I wouldn’t be sporting a profile picture of a giraffe for three days and idly wondering what answer she had given.

I then went into the living room and told the riddle to Jane and Grandma Dot, my step-mother. Jane immediately answered with “door”. I explained on Facebook that I had to be right because my daughter gave the same answer and everyone knows that she knows everything.

She then offered up a riddle of her own: “What stays in the corner… I mean in A corner yet travels around the world?”

I thought about it and thought about it and thought about it. I sat down on the couch and pouted a little bit. “You know,” I said, “you are really busting my ego. I’m not very good at riddles and I was feeling really good about getting that other one and now you give me this one.”

“It took you awhile? I got it immediately.”

“Yes, I know.”

“So do you want to know the answer?”


“I do!” chimed in Grandma.

“Well, I do too but I don’t want you to tell it to me right now.”

“It’s a stamp.”

“Wait a minute.” I was ready to argue about this one. “A stamp can go around the world. It doesn’t necessarily.”

“Ok, fine. It goes around the world. It can go around the world. Whatever.”

“No, not whatever! These distinctions are important. You have to get the wording exactly right with riddles or they don’t work.”

“Fine. You want another one?”


“The maker has no need for it. The buyer has no…”

“Oh. I’ve heard this one before,” I interrupted. “But go ahead. I don’t remember the answer.”

She fumbled the wording a few times before settling on “The maker has no need for it. The buyer has no use for it. The owner will stay with it forever.”

“I’m going to let Grandma Dot get this one… Since I’ve heard it before, you know.” I winked.

Shortly after I left the room, I got a notification from Facebook. My friend had responded to my message: That was my answer also. Wait! What?! Welcome to the giraffe club.

“Jane! Come here!” Once she joined me, I informed her that she was wrong. She immediately responded: “It’s eyes. You open your eyes first.” She was, once again, quick. And this time, right.

Now, being an engineer, I’m going to quibble a bit about this one. If I already know it’s my parents, then I’ve arguably already gone to the door to see who’s there. In which case, I’ve already opened my eyes. But hey, even I can appreciate a trick double-riddle. And Melman looks cute as my profile picture.


At Least She’s Not Texting

I heard the oddest sound coming out of Jane’s room this evening. It was like nothing I had ever heard from there before. I heard her talking. And laughing. And pausing while (presumably) someone else spoke. She was talking on the phone.

I was more than a little surprised. And pleased. This may sound very strange to the generations ahead of me. You spent your time yelling to your teenager to get off the phone. You probably followed the cord around a corner into some secluded area of the house so you could pantomime your desire for them to terminate the phone call.

I’ve been dying for my daughter to talk on the phone. All she does is text. Text. Text. Text. And more Text.

Hey. Are you mad at me?
No. I’m just always in a bad mood.
Why? Is it because of me?
No. I don’t know why. I just am.
So will you talk to me in the halls now?
I guess so.
Am I still one of your best guy friends?
Yes. I only have three.

“Why don’t you tell him you are at dinner and you’ll call him later?” I asked when this important “conversation” was taking place at the restaurant during her birthday dinner.

*eye roll* “Just… Never mind… It’s his mom’s phone anyway… He borrowed it.”

So tonight, when I heard her talking, I did a little happy dance. I paused outside her door to listen. My husband happened to be coming down the hall too so stopped. He reached to open the door.

I grabbed his arm and quietly motioned for him not to. He scrunched his face in confusion. She’s talking! Talking on the phone! Can you believe it?! I mouthed and gestured my excitement.

“Are you sure?” he whispered.

I nodded emphatically, my eyes twinkling with excitement.

“Are you sure it’s not FaceTime?” he asked.

I stopped. Surely not. I reached for the door and poked my head in. She was holding her just-purchased iPod Touch out in front of her. The friend appeared to be on speaker phone. Jane motioned me out of the room. Instead, I stepped in further until I spied the moving image of one of her best friends on the screen.

I sighed. And left the room. And nodded to my husband, who grinned a self-satisfied smile. Oh, well. It’s still better than texting.

Taking the Time to Write

I caught the tail end of a story on NPR about an old Story Corps interview between a married couple, reflecting on their life together. I gathered the man had written a letter to his wife every day and was now reaching the end of his life, whether from old age, illness, or both, I do not know. That interview had aired on the radio the day he died seven years ago.

The story I was listening to was in response to numerous letters Story Corps had received asking how the woman was doing now, so they got in touch with her. What struck me, beyond the obvious love and affection between them and her response to his death, was her statement that she had received over 1400 letters of condolence. She had even received letters from China and France! And since her husband had written her a letter a day, she chose to read those letters one a day. That means those (mostly) anonymous well-wishers supported her for nearly four years.

I was impressed. What had inspired those people to take time to write to this woman they did not know? I can’t even find the discipline to write Thank You letters to people who have given me something or done something kind for me. And what a difference those letters made! Tears came to my eyes as I pondered it.

And then I thought of Jane. While cleaning her room a couple of months ago, she came across a card from one of my grandmothers. In it, Grandma had requested, as she always does, that Jane write to her. Now, this woman is very reliable with important events. She will never forget your birthday or anniversary and she will always send you a card. It is a priority for her and she expects the same from others.

And she is almost always disappointed. She has typically been a very unhappy woman. She has not been satisfied with the amount of contact she has with her family, both those of us far away and those living close to home. A phone call would typically involve complaints about how you don’t call more often and no one else talks to her either. Being reflexively resistant to guilt trips, this made me less interested in calling her. Writing seemed out of the question. Who has time for that? I wrote once, and that letter was typed, so that I could communicate more information more quickly.

So if I had seen the card that Jane found, I would have rolled my eyes and moved on. But that’s not what Jane did. She pulled out a pen and paper. I didn’t know what she was doing that day. I just saw that she was spending a tremendous amount of time curled up in the recliner writing. I assumed she was writing a story.

But then she asked me a question and when I prodded her on why she was asking, she told me she was writing to her great grandmother. I think the letter ended up being two sheets of paper, front and back. I called my mom for the address and we actually got it in the mail.

A response letter arrived about a week later. Jane smiled and laughed as she read it. And then she pulled out another piece of paper and began to write again. It probably took her a week or longer to get it finished and in the mail, but she did.

I learned from my mom that Grandma recently started taking a medication that appears to have improved her mood. She was so excited to get the letter from Jane. She expressed her hope that Jane would write back. My mom hesitated. She knows how impulsive teenagers can be. What are the odds of Jane continuing a pen pal relationship with her great grandmother? She cautioned Grandma about how busy we are and how kids really don’t write anymore. “I know,” Grandma said, “they text now.”

But Jane did write back. And if there is one thing I can depend on, it’s that Grandma will write back too. The article on the radio today made me see just how important it is. And not just for older people who remember letter writing as a primary form of communication. Young people enjoy getting mail too. I think she’s hooked. And I’m glad she’s forging this relationship with her great grandmother. And I think she just might be having an effect on me. Maybe I could take the time to write a hand-written letter to Grandma too.

My Little Pretty

This morning, Jane entered the bathroom while I was showering and began to sort her laundry into our laundry hampers. We have three that are sorted according to how the articles need to be washed. The boys have a sorted hamper system as well. Jane has one hamper and periodically brings it to ours for sorting.

The hampers are near the door so as she opened it, she left it open (with her rear actually poking out of the room). She then began to pull her clothes out of her hamper and toss them into ours. I felt the cold air drift down from above the shower wall and yelped. “Shut the door!!”

She scooted in and quickly closed it. Unfortunately for her, it is a pocket door, one that still lacks a handle due to the never ending remodeling job. So if you close it too completely, it is difficult to open. She turned to leave and couldn’t grab the edge of the door. She reached toward the top and then to the side before asking, “How do I get out of here?”

Her wording grabbed my fancy. I opened the shower door to poke my head out. I smiled deviously at her and in my best witch’s voice, said, “You don’t! You are trapped in here my little pretty! HEE, hee, hee, hee, hee!”

She smiled faintly at me as she gained a hold on the door edge and left the room. I wondered if she had found it funny. It’s been only recently that I’ve been willing to let go of my own fear of embarrassment and act silly with my family. I still won’t do it around most anyone else.

I had a sudden chilling thought. My kids think I’m cool. Well, for the most part, they do. How terrible would it be if they found me embarrassing? I mean, like truly, “get away from me, mom” embarrassing? How would I handle that?

Imagining Pumpkin Greatness

I walked into the preschool to pick up Hal. As I entered my code at the front desk, I noticed the pink decorated pumpkin sitting there. Ah, I remembered. Next week is the pumpkin decorating contest.

I am categorically too busy for these kinds of contests and rarely participate, but I started imagining what we might do if we did. Earlier in the week, I had contemplated an Avengers pumpkin, maybe Captain America or the Hulk. Ooh! I thought. What if I reference another holiday? What if we did a snowman made out of three stacked pumpkins?

Hal had picked up one of his baby carrots at dinner the night before and commented what a great nose it would make for a snowman. It was of course way too small for a full sized snowman, but for a pumpkin sized one? Perfect! He’ll be so excited!

The pumpkin snowman began to take form in my mind as I walked down the hall. He wasn’t in his classroom and after peeking out the window to the playground, I noticed his teacher cleaning the bathroom. She said he was down in the movie room, so I went ahead and grabbed his papers and backpack then headed back down the hall.

As I exited the building, I was thinking about the weekend and came to the conclusion that we needed to go ahead and buy the three pumpkins tonight on our way home. I better get buy-in from Hal on the plan.

I looked down and to the right to ask Hal what he thought. I then froze in front of my truck in a moment of profound confusion. I had left the school without my child.

Rockin’ Grammar

There is a Rolling Stone magazine sitting on my bathroom counter. It is partially obscured by other stuff that has stacked up there. The edge near the spine, however, where the titles for the various articles are printed, is still visible. One morning, I noticed that one of them said “Imagine Dragons Take Flight”.

Shouldn’t that be ‘Imagine Dragons Takes Flight’? I thought. I continued to ponder it as I climbed into the shower. The band takes flight I thought. The name is a title for a single object: a band. It’s singular. Pink Floyd takes flight. U2 takes flight. See? The Eagles… take flight. Hmm. But ‘The Eagles’ is plural, so yeah, that makes sense. ‘Imagine Dragons’ isn’t really plural.

Ah, I thought. It’s because the name has a verb in it. Tricky. I wonder which way it should be.

With that thought, I finished my shower and went about my day. The next day, the magazine cover was still staring back at me and I still thought it “read” wrong. The analysis continued in that morning’s shower.

Okay, what are some other non-standard band names? They Might Be Giants… take flight? Oh! That sounds awful. It should be ‘They Might Be Giants takes flight’. Well, what good is my opinion? I think it should be ‘Imagine Dragons takes flight’ too.

I considered the possibility that the copy editor for Rolling Stone might be wrong. It’s possible. Of course, they surely have more experience than I do in ensuring proper noun/verb agreement with unusual band names. The problem, I thought, is probably relatively new. Bands used to name themselves with nouns or with an adjective/noun combo, not verbs or complete sentences.

I turned off the water and decided to employ Wikipedia to help me out. Not that they are perfect at grammar themselves. Just a bunch of everybodies like me. But any article on a band will start with “band name is/are blah blah blah”. I suspected I would find support for my position.

First I looked up They Might Be Giants: They Might Be Giants (sometimes abbreviated as TMBG) is an American alternative band formed in 1982…

A-ha! Success. The band is, therefore the band takes flight. Time to check out Imagine Dragons:

Imagine Dragons is an American alternative rock band from…

Yes! Agreement! The anonymous editors at Wikipedia agree with me! Woo-hoo!

Checking The Eagles showed: The Eagles are an American rock band formed in…

Logical consistency, at least according to my view of the grammatical world.


Sharing a room with your brother must be complicated. As my husband and I lay in bed this morning, dreaming of the day when we wouldn’t have to get up if we didn’t want to, we heard Hal call out on his way to the bathroom.

“Daddy! Daryl peed on my bed!”

This gave us pause. Before Daddy could respond…

“No I didn’t!!” was called out from their bedroom.

“Daryl,” my husband said, “why did you pee on Hal’s bed?”

“I didn’t!”

“Yes he did!”

“Daryl, why did you pee on Hal’s bed?”

“I didn’t! It was water.” Some faint giggling accompanied the protest.

“Why do you have water on Hal’s bed?”

“Because I have a cup of water.”

“Why do you have a cup of water on Hal’s bed?”

Some more giggling from their room.

Then Hal called from the bathroom, “It wasn’t water! I saw stuff coming out of his penis!”

“Daryl!” called my husband in feigned seriousness, “Why do you have a cup of water coming out of your penis?”

Daryl giggled some more but didn’t reply. Hal didn’t renew his complaint either. So either Hal is relatively OK with his brother peeing on his bed, or he didn’t really believe that’s what happened any more than the rest of us did.