How To Remember The Little Things

My mom always left notes for herself. Everywhere. There could be notes hanging from the ceiling fan pull in the dining room, guaranteeing she would see them since that was the main thoroughfare of the house. She’d tape notes on the inside of the front door so we’d see them as we left. Or on the door out to the garage. Or taped to the bathroom mirror. Or she might lay the note on her purse or on some other object that she wasn’t likely to forget.

I used to think she was forgetful. Now I know how smart she was.

Her notes would remind her to get something out of the fridge or to take something with her or make a phone call, some little out-of-the-norm activity that she needed to do. Or it would be a note reminding us of something we needed to do.

I actually come from a long line of note posters. My grandpa, her dad,  taped notes on the staircase banister, which was the central location of his house. These notes were often notes instructing my grandma on something she needed to do or a note for one of us coming to the house. The funny thing about his notes were that they were always typed and dated. I’m kinda surprised he didn’t sign them or have them notarized. I used to imagine that he filed the old notes away in case he needed them as evidence in a disagreement on something or for historical reference.

Despite having been raised by note-posters and understanding the intrinsic value of the activity, I’ve never made it part of my daily routine. And considering how badly I remember the minutia of life, that’s not a good thing.

While bemoaning the stacks of stuff in our entry way that my husband plans on (some day) (when he remembers) taking out to his studio, I remembered the notes.

“Maybe you need a better reminder {than all the crap in the way… I thought but didn’t say}. Maybe a note on the door so you see it on the way out.”

That put the thought in my head.

I have these Wella bars that I eat for breakfast at work and I accidentally took the entire box to work on Monday without remembering to leave one at home to eat before our half marathon this weekend. So I knew I had all week to remember to bring one back home.

Yesterday, as I retrieved one from the fridge in the morning, I thought, You aren’t going to ever remember to take one of these out at the end of the day.

Aha! I thought with a smile. A Post-It note will do the trick. But where? The fridge? My computer screen? No, I’ll get used to seeing it all day and it won’t work. Aha! On my purse!

And that’s what I did. Come the end of the day when I reached for my purse, I smiled broadly at my wild success and retrieved the almost-forgotten Wella bar from the fridge and slipped it in my purse, triumphant.

And then this morning as I pondered our upcoming race, I suddenly exclaimed an expletive. The must-be-refrigerated Wella bar from the day before was still nestled in my purse.

I guess I’m still in the beginner stages. Another note, perhaps? Maybe I should have carried the note with me and placed it on my steering wheel or back on my purse. So close, yet so far. I’ve got a long way to go before I earn my place among the great note-posters of my family.

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Saturday Special

We were getting a little disconnected as a family. Maybe not just a little. Jane actually dissolved into tears of frustration recently when trying to explain why it bothered her so much that we hadn’t woken her up from the couch when we got home.

“Don’t we eat dinner together as a family anymore?”

We actually had done that just a couple of days earlier but without her. As a high-schooler with a boyfriend, she’s home less than she used to be. But in her defense, she was home that particular evening and I had fixed myself a salad without waking her or her sleeping brother. “Fend for yourself” was becoming the norm.

The next night, we played games late into the night with friends and didn’t arrive home until after midnight. Needless to say, our Saturday got a late start. I eventually marveled that even the dog hadn’t stirred by 10:30 and went to rouse my clan as my husband set out to prepare a brunch feast.

When I woke Daryl and said, “Come on, Daryl! It’s lunchtime!” he asked how it could possibly be lunchtime. “What about breakfast?”

“Dude,” I said, “it’s 10:40. We slept through breakfast!”

We had a bumpy start through meal prep and consumption. Jane wanted to spend time with Hal but Hal didn’t want to share his drawing pad or his colored pencils. Daryl had woken in a sour mood and didn’t like having to hand wash some dishes, although he chose that task over making waffles.

After lunch though, all three kids sat down with their respective pads of paper at the dining room table and used Jane’s gel pens to draw or color. Jane asked if I wanted to join them but I declined. “I have too much I need to do,” I said.

But when I reached my room with the laundry hamper, I spied my grown-up coloring book. Sensing something special was happening, I grabbed it and joined the kids. Jane was playing music on a bluetooth speaker and everyone colored quietly and talked and laughed and complimented each other’s art.

Eventually, Daddy joined us at the table as he sorted the mail. Knowing that I really did have work to do, I put my book aside and began sorting papers as well. When Daryl tired of coloring, he started going through books on his shelves that he didn’t want anymore. He’d bring them to the table and we’d all make decisions on them together.

“We aren’t getting rid of any books! Mrs. Smith says you can’t have too many books,” Hal stated confidently.

“Mrs. Smith has never been to our house.”

It was wonderful. “We should do this on Saturdays more often,” Jane said. I agreed.

Later in the afternoon, she and her Dad left to take care of some shopping. I asked Hal if he wanted to go for a walk. He was very behind on his miles for a Kids’ Marathon the boys are participating in and the treadmill gets boring.

Soon, the two of us were walking the 3.2 mile loop that my husband and I run when we want a “short” run. Hal likes to talk and prattled away as we walked. He pointed out slyly that he was still in his pajamas. I suggested that maybe long flannel pants weren’t the best choice for walking on a warm Spring day.

We talked about the dogs we saw, the trash along the way, the sky, the trees, the grass, people’s yards, the cars going by, the bear he thought he might have seen in the woods.

“There aren’t bears here,” I said.

“Well, I saw something move in there!”

“I’m sure there was something there but it wasn’t a bear.”

“Maybe a squirrel,” he said.

“Or a cat.”

“A cat?! What would a cat be doing in the woods?”

I shrugged. “Exploring. Hunting mice. Or birds.”

“Do cats eat birds?” he asked.

“Yes. Or at least, they like to kill birds.”

The walk was long but there was a nice breeze and clouds blocked the sun most of the way. We passed by some pigs in pens. There was too much in the way for us to see them but we could sure smell them! Hal decided he was glad he didn’t live near them.

We talked about a car that was covered with a tarp but also under a carport. We discussed various reasons the car owner might do that. We peeked at a pond in the distance and discussed the “private property” sign on the fence and what it meant. We studied the trees that had grown up under the power lines and had their tops cut off. We remarked on all the ant mounds and how large some of them were.

“Why did God invent ants anyway?” he asked.

“Well,” I said. “They are very good at breaking up the soil so plants can grow.”

“We don’t need ants to do that! We can do that ourselves,” he said.

I pointed out a large field of tall grass at one point. The wind was blowing the grass in big lazy waves. “It looks like a big grass sea!” he said with delight.

We passed by a house that had some dilapidated out buildings. “Do chickens live in there?” he asked.

“It looks like chickens may have lived in there before,” I said. “But it looks too rundown now. I don’t think it’s in use.”

“Look!” he said as we passed by the end of the building. “That part is really falling apart! It looks like it got hit by a tornado or maybe a hurricane or something!”

“I think it’s just the passage of time. They didn’t make repairs over time and now it’s falling apart. Look over there,” I said, pointing to an even more unstable structure behind it. “That one’s really old.”

“I bet a tornado came through a really long time ago. Like in the old days. Back in 1977.”

“Hey!” I said. “I was three years old in 1977! Those aren’t the old days!”

He looked shocked. “Wow! You were three in 1977! Hey, Hannah told me the other day that her favorite number is three and that’s how old you were way back in 1937!”

Seventy seven!”

That started a game of “back in the old days, forward in the futurative days.” Hal would pretend he was an old man and say things like “back in the old days when I was three, we had a nice building for the chickens but back in… oops, I mean, forward in the futurative days when I was 52, it was worn down.”

He went through various topics. Like when a DVD just made sound, not pictures. I told him DVDs didn’t exist “in the old days.”

“Well, back in the old days, we just had a radio to listen to but forward in the futurative days, we have television.”

And so on and so on until he ran out of “old days” differences. That’s when he enlisted my help. I’d say the old days line and then he’d give the future one, sometimes restating my old days with his own twist, sometimes keeping it straight.

We compared phones on the wall to iPhones and film cameras to digital. He tried to claim that old days didn’t have cool sports cars like Camaros. I told him they had actually been very popular in the Seventies.

As we walked past a stranger mowing his yard with an obviously old push mower, Hal said, “Back in the old days, we just had a rundown old mower, but forward in the futurative days, we have a nice shiny one.” He pointed to the man. “I got that one from our friend there with the mower.”

I don’t spend a lot of one-on-one time with Hal. I’ve recently started working with him on his cello lessons, sitting and watching and paying full attention to him and his efforts rather than multi-tasking. But when I surprised him by showing up with Daddy at his Spring party the day before, he glanced up at me, showed no interest at all and rushed over to his dad to tell him what he had made. That stung. It stung a lot.

But then I got to spend 45 minutes walking with this wonderful little man we are raising. This quirky, oddball, inquisitive little man. And I was happy.

I honestly can’t say whether I enjoyed the family coloring party or the walk with Hal more. I just feel incredibly fortunate that I got to experience both. I didn’t get the big paper reduction project done that day, and quite frankly, I’m not sure how we’ll stay on schedule with our tidying plans, but I don’t care either.

This was special. And as Jane said, I want it to happen again.

Electronics Free Time

My husband decided we should institute an electronics free time in our household. He and I discussed it for a bit before deciding to “go live” Sunday evening. Sun-Thurs, regardless of whether school is in session, everyone will put away electronics from 5pm until 8pm.

This includes phones, iPods, tablets, the PS-4, computer games – all of them. Kindles are allowed for reading. And while the devices are all sitting in a designated public-access spot, we can check them for text messages or answer the phone if it rings.

So Sunday evening rolled around and my husband told the boys to put their electronics away. Daryl soon picked up his old iPod and said he wanted to do experiments with it outside. I was leery until I verified that it wouldn’t power on.

He and Hal were soon outside using the silvery back of the iPod to reflect the sun onto the sidewalk. When they noticed that they could almost see the Apple logo on the concrete, they ran back in for a sheet of paper to see if they could get a clearer reflection.

Sometime later, Hal came in looking for a rag. A glance outside showed that they had raided my husband’s pottery shard pile and were cracking pottery with a rock, washing desired pieces in a cup of water, drying it with the rag, and arranging them on a board for a mosaic.

Several times, I contemplated calling them in to put away laundry or help me make decisions on their overabundance of T-shirts. Every time, though, I looked outside at the two of them. Working together. Not fighting – at all. And unplugged.

And every time, I decided the clothes could wait.

When I came home from work last night, they had found a magnifying glass and were seeing if they could start a piece of paper on fire in the driveway. Hal created a new hind end for himself out of a shoe box. They played with the Nerf dart guns.

Both nights, they came easily to the table when called in for dinner. And no one has whined about wanting to be on their electronics. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s like nirvana or something.

We’ll see how well it lasts. And both nights, Jane has been gone so the jury’s still out on how that is going to work. And last night wasn’t without a dispute or two. But all in all, this is exactly what we were hoping to see happen.

As I told my husband, I’m more than happy to give up Two Dots for this.