About mybrightspots

I'm a married mother of three livin' the good life and amusing my friends with tales of parenthood that can only be told by someone on the front lines of child rearing.

The Case of the Missing Underwear

“You know,” I said to my husband as we lay in bed this morning, “despite the excruciating headache, yesterday was a pretty good day.”

“Yeah?” he murmured, drowsily enjoying the rare early morning cuddles.

“Yeah. I mean, church was good. I got a nice rest in after. I enjoyed sitting on the couch with Daryl, watching him play Fortnite. We played a game. I made a necklace. Fixed a nice dinner and you made me lunch. We got the bathroom cleaned up – not perfect – but good progress. And you got a lot of laundry put away off your bench.”

“And we found my underwear! I was vindicated!”

I laughed. “Yes, we found your underwear.”

“I can’t believe how full that little red suitcase was,” he continued. “You know those T-shirts that come packed into tiny little little packages? It was like that. I kept unpacking and unpacking. There were 2 1/2 baskets of dirty laundry in there!”

“Well… not quite that much. We got it into one load.”

“But when you think about it. That was from a single weekend trip. And just two of us – not the whole family!”

My husband had spent the week commenting on the fact that he appeared to be missing several pairs of his ‘new’ underwear. I had also noticed that I didn’t appear to have the same backlog in my drawer that I was accustomed to but hadn’t thought much about it.

I had been insisting that his underwear was likely clean and part of the staggering tower of laundry on the bench beside his bed. We had washed all the laundry in the house and not turned up all his underwear. He knew exactly how many pairs he was supposed to have. He was also confident that none of the clothes on the bench was underwear.

So late Sunday evening, just before bed, I was straightening up the bathroom. Having been cajoled by me that the clothes on the bench could still be put away even if his underwear wasn’t there, he was doing just that. I was coming in and out of the bedroom at regular intervals, putting various things away, when I noticed – for the first time since it had been set there, probably – the small, bulging suitcase near the door to our room.

I plopped the suitcase onto the bed and said, “I bet your underwear is in there.”

“The thing about a cluttered house,” I continued, “is that you get to where you don’t even notice stuff that’s out of place.”

“Oh, I noticed it,” he said. “I just thought it was empty and waiting to return to wherever it’s supposed to go.”

I guess he hadn’t noticed the bulge. Or thought to ask where the suitcase is stored. But, hey. At least we found the underwear before he went and bought more!

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As Little As Possible

While I love my children dearly, sometimes I wish they had an interest in doing more than the bare minimum to get by. Many parents will probably laugh and say that this is perfectly normal, that my children are not unusual. That’s probably true but this minimalist approach to tasks has manifested itself in some crazy ways in the Bright Spots household.

First, there’s Daryl and the yard work. He’s responsible for mowing and weed-eating. The mowing he accomplishes reasonably well – it’s a riding mower. The weed-eating, on the other hand, is another story. After he claims to have finished, we will stand in the yard, looking at the tall grass along the edge of the sidewalk, driveway, house and other buildings, along the fence, around the mailbox and telephone pole and swing set and wonder what, exactly, he cut with that whirling string.

Around the trees, he’ll explain. The trees, at this point, still have visibly taller wisps of grass around them too.

There is a grass covered ramp leading up to one of our buildings and a ledge along the front. The grass along the ledge had topped six feet and the grass on the ramp was knee high. So one weekend we told him he absolutely had to weed-eat and he especially needed to make sure he got the ramp.

We came home to a ramp basically knocked down but the tall grass on either side still present. When asked, he claimed that was an area he gets with the mower. Of course, when he mows, he claims it’s grass he gets with the weed-eater. And if it was mowed grass, it wouldn’t be so much taller than all the other mowed grass.

“Daryl,” I said. “Every single piece of grass on this property has to get cut. Every time. By either the mower or the weed-eater. By you. Every blade of grass. Every. Single. Time.”

He looked at me like I was crazy.

Then there’s laundry. I had a load of “whites” dumped out on our bed. That load has towels, my husband’s undershirts, and Hal’s white socks. I asked the boys to please go fold the towels.

When I returned home, the towels had indeed been folded. But not the 2 dish towels, 1 washcloth, and 2 hand towels. And the towels still sat on our bed even though every single time I ask them to fold the towels, I then ask them to put them away in their bathroom. And Hal’s socks were strewn all across my bed. Even though he knows he’s responsible for matching up his socks and putting them away.

I mean, I guess I should have said, “Please fold the towels – and that includes towels of all sizes and all destinations so don’t forget the washcloths and dish towels. Make sure you put them all away when you are done too. And, oh, Hal, go ahead and take care of your socks.”

But quite frankly, that’s exhausting. And I’ve tried that before and I think they zone out and I get no more work out of them then when I just say “fold the towels.”

Curious about just how far this apathy goes, I set their stack of towels just outside their bathroom door. Would any of the three children pick up the stack, walk the three feet to the bathroom cabinet and put them away? It’s been a few days. You tell me.

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Staring Contest

Hal entered the dining room with a blue towel wrapped tightly around his hips, hair wet from his shower. He stared at me intently and asked, with a small enigmatic smile on his clean face, “Do my eyes look red?”

I glanced at his eyes, not sure whether I was to look at his eyeballs or the surrounding skin. I thought that maybe – maybe – the rims of his eyes, especially along the bottom might have been red. “Yeah, little bit, looks like,” I said.

He smiled and turned to his dad, who nodded. He turned back slightly to take in both of us and said, with humor in his voice, “I was having a staring contest.” He paused for dramatic effect, just long enough for me to wonder with whom. He answered that question when he resumed, “With myself in the mirror and my eyes were starting to sting.” Again he paused, looking back and forth between his patient audience members. I had time to imagine him leaning into the mirror, straining to keep his eyes open, tears forming, and then he dropped the punchline with a wide smile, “until we both blinked. At the same time.”

We both barked out a laugh, which made his smile engulf his face. The last part of the evening had been like that – Hal telling a good joke. Hal laughing freely when we gently poked fun at him. The usual strident arguing, defensive posturing, and quick, overblown outrage we have become accustomed to were all missing. Hopefully this means he is growing up. The witty personality underneath is quite a delight.

When Pants Plans Go Awry

Daryl wasn’t the only Bright Spots household member with big sartorial plans for the first day of school. And while his outfit planning made for a great comedy display, the other was more tragedy.

Hal eagerly exited bed on the first day of school and threw on one of his favorite T-shirts (chosen, incidentally, to brag about his big brother going to DI Global Finals this year – Daryl has no idea how much his little brother looks up to him) plus the running pants with the bright orange stripes down the sides and his new “sock style” sneakers. As he hurried past me, I stopped him. “Whoa, come here – step into the light.”

I then proceeded to point out to him that in addition to the sizable hole in one knee, the pants were noticeably too short for him. This is a common problem for my fourth grade beanpole who has easily topped five foot but isn’t any bigger around than his small classmates. Pants are almost always too short – either that, or way too wide around the waist.

“Why don’t you put on some jeans instead?” I asked.

He returned a few minutes later wearing jeans and a very sour expression. “It looks awful!” he declared as he flopped onto my bed. I glanced at his sister and shrugged. He looked like a little boy wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers – the classic American kid.

“It looks fine,” I said. “What’s wrong with it?”

He gestured to his legs and feet with exaggerated disgust and with the general air that I must be stupid if I can’t see it. “They don’t look right with these shoes!” he cried before throwing himself back on the bed.

“What’s wrong with the jeans?” asked Jane. “They look fine.”

More rapid, frustrated gesturing before he sputtered, “They are too THICK!”

“Too think?” I asked, confused. “They are jeans. They are the thickness of jeans. It doesn’t look bad.”

“No! No! They are too THICK!!”

He was rapidly losing control so I headed to his room to look for alternatives while his sister tried to discern what he meant. Eventually she got out of him that “thick” really meant “wide.” He didn’t like the straight-leg jeans, preferring the tapered style of sweats he usually wears.

“So you want some skinny jeans?” she asked. I cringed as she said that, already knowing the answer.

“No!! I don’t like skinny jeans! They hurt behind my knees when I sit down!”

I called him in to his room to try on some other running pants I found. “I’m concerned they are too short like the others,” I said. “But if you want to try them, here.”

He tried them on and sure enough, they were too short. He insisted they were fine.

“Honey,” I tried. “I don’t want the other kids to make fun of you for wearing pants that are too short. That’s like one of the big things that gets pointed out. They really are too short. Let’s try to find something else.”

“Too short? Too short? Why would Mimi buy me pants if they are too short??!!”

“Well, they probably weren’t too short when she bought them.”

“No, I mean Mimi bought me two pairs of these. Two. Why would she buy two different sizes?”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“The others aren’t too short. Why would these be too short? Huh?!”

“I don’t know. Maybe those are too short too…”

“NO!! They aren’t!”

“Ok,” I soothed, as I looked in the hamper. Extracting the pair he had worn the day before, I continued, “Are these the ones that fit?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, well, these are 14-16’s. The ones you are wearing are 10-12’s – no wonder they are too short.”

After a discussion on whether the pair from the hamper were too dirty – me explaining that he wore them to church and then just around the house, he’d be fine – he changed into his fourth pair of pants for the morning and the crisis was resolved. Such drama on the first day of school!

Daryl Goes to High School

Daryl knew exactly what he wanted to wear his first day of high school. He was animated telling me about it, dropping into his faux hip-hop mannerisms he uses when he’s talking about how cool he is. He tends to lean to one side, drop his shoulder, and put his hands in front of him, gesturing like a rapper, one side of his mouth turned up in a knowing smirk, his eyes barely open, head nodding, and an occasional smack of the lips.

“I got it all planned out,” he said. “Imma gonna wear my…{smack} Adidas sweatpants and my… {smack} Adidas shoes and then my Adidas sweatshirt… yeahhhhh…” Slow, ‘cool’ nods of the head as he tilts back and slightly to one side.

“You are going to wear a sweatshirt. On August 20th. In Texas,” I replied.

“Yeahhh….it’s gonna be gucci maaaann…”

“You are going to look stupid. The upperclassmen are going to look at you and think, ‘look at that idiot wearing a sweatshirt when it’s a hundred degrees outside.”

“Nah, man. I’m gonna be killing it. See, Imma gonna be all Adidas. Imma even gonna wear my Adidas underwear.”

“How is anyone going to know you are wearing Adidas underwear if you are wearing a sweatshirt?”

“Easy… see… ya just pull your pants down a little like this…” He pulled one side of his pants down a few inches past his hips to reveal the waistband of his underwear. “Yeahhhh…” More head nods and arm gestures as he strutted across the room in front of me.

“Still, no one is going to see your underwear if you are wearing a sweatshirt, even if you pull your pants down a little,” I said.

“No, mama, you see, it’s like this. See, ya juss… ya juss… lift your shirt up like this see? You walk around, you just kinda lift it and go, ‘what’s up bruh? Yeah… iss aright man…’.” He kind of flopped his arms up under the bottom of his shirt and held his arms like he was greating his buddies from the hood or something, nodding and walking like he had a limp.

I shook my head.

“You are going to look like an idiot if you walk around like that.”

“Nah, man, I coo bro…” he said, pulling the other side of his pants down so he had that awful street look where his pants are barely hanging on and his underwear is almost fully revealed. I knew he was tweaking me then.

“You gonna wear Adidas socks to complete the look?” I asked.

“Oh, hecks no. I’m a Nike man! I be wearing my Nike socks! What you talkin’ about?”

Yes, he really said that. Yes he did. After describing his four piece Adidas outfit he was proud to wear on the first day, he declared himself a Nike man and thought I was crazy to suggest he wear anything other than Nike socks.

Kids are crazy, but I think teenage boys may take the cake.

And guess what? First day of school? He wore a T-shirt that he has had for at least two years. Not Adidas, not Nike.

“What about the Adidas sweatshirt?” I asked.

“Ahh… it’s in the hamper.”

“You gonna wear it anyway?”

“Nah. It’s dirty.”

He had a day and a half to wash that sweatshirt after announcing his perfect first day of school attire. I guess the desire to look his imagined best doesn’t go deep enough to override general teenage laziness, forgetfulness, and that overwhelming need to get as much Fortnite in as possible before summer ends.

Fine by me. Saved me all the “Sweatshirt? Really? Is that boy crazy?” questions I would have gotten when I shared the first-day-of-school pictures on Facebook.

Oh, yeah? When I was your age…

Hal has yet another loose tooth. It seemed pretty loose to me so when he walked in pushing on his lip near the tooth, I suggested that my husband take a look at it. Hal jerked away and shook his head.

“I’m not going to pull it,” he said. Then, after wiggling the tooth, he added, “Yeah, I’d say it needs another day or two.”

“Are you sure? Felt like it was ready to come out to me,” I responded.

“No,” he said, looking at Hal. “I’m more of the wait until it’s ready to fall out kind of person. Your mom is the rip it out kind of person.”

“You think I’m the rip it out kind of person?! Let me tell you…”

I then launched into the tale of my first two pulled teeth. These were stories I’ve told many times before and it dismayed me to realize that I didn’t remember for sure which was the first tooth and which was the second.

“So I was out shopping with Mimi. And Aunt May. And Aunt Susan was probably there. And Grandma Lucky and my GREAT grandma.”

Hal’s eyes were wide with wonder.

“And we were all in a dressing room together. It was a big dressing room.”

I was playing with my tooth and my great grandma asked to see it. My mom, who was very big on yanking teeth {this part now makes me think that this must have been my second tooth because how else would I know this?} warned her off and said, “Oh, grandma, no. It’s not ready yet.”

“I’ll see about that,” she said.

At this point, back in my dining room, I held up seven fingers – all on my left hand and only the pinky and ring finger on the right. “Now, my great grandmother,” I told Hal, “only had seven fingers.”

He looked over at his dad, who confirmed it with a solemn nod. Hal’s eyes went even wider.

“I can’t remember whether she used those two fingers this time or not but they were like pincers. She could grab hold of this skin under your arm {I demonstrated} and lead you wherever she wanted you to go.”

Hal scooted closer to his dad.

“Anyway, I just remember her reaching into my mouth and yanking that tooth out and saying, ‘Looks ready to me!’ I clearly remember looking at myself in the dressing room mirror, staring at the blood running down my face and all the commotion that caused in the dressing room.”

Hal was now standing partially behind his dad.

“Now, the second tooth,” I continued. “I lost that one on the Fourth of July. I know that because it was almost time to go to the big fireworks display in town and my mom insisted that we weren’t going until that tooth came out.

“I pleaded my case but she pinned me against the kitchen cabinets, reached in, and yanked out the tooth! It slipped from her fingers and fell onto my tongue. She said sharply, ‘Stick out your tongue!’ and I did and she plucked it off my tongue and we went to the fireworks display.”

Hal, now standing fully behind his seated dad and ducking down behind him, whispered in a small voice, “I’m glad I wasn’t you.”

I smiled. I didn’t have a rough childhood – definitely not. But my children are definitely softer than they would have been had they been me. Between my great grandma, grandparents, and my mom, not a lot of crap was put up with. Let’s just say they all had a perspective that you needed to be tough.

Oh, one last thing? Before I was two sentences into writing this story, Hal entered the room with his hand cupped in front of him. “Looks like today was the day after all,” he said, holding the tooth.

Affirmation. I was right!

Park People

I left out part of the experience in yesterday’s post about our Saturday morning bicycle outing. It concerns the other people present at the park. We got there around 7:30 in the morning. It was raining and had been raining. But there were already people there.

At a covered picnic table in the children’s play area were two grubby looking men, hunched down and sitting rather close to each other. I couldn’t see what they were doing. Near the pavilion was a car much older than any of my children with considerably more contents than you would find in most vehicles. It was unoccupied.

As I approached the pavilion, I heard a toilet flush. That struck my naive mind as odd – who had chosen to come to the park this early in the rain and been there long enough that they now needed to use the bathroom? I soon saw who.

A blond woman of indeterminate age returned to the cover of the pavilion with a reflective silver sunshade over her head – even though the rain had stopped for the moment and the distance from the bathroom to the pavilion was very short. I would have put her in her forties or so if pressed for a guess, but she looked like life hadn’t been easy on her so I suppose she could have been younger.

She sat down at a picnic table and a few minutes later, a young black man exited the bathroom and joined her. They huddled there quietly while we attempted to make the air pump work. I began to suspect that they had slept the night in the car. Since there was only the one vehicle, I also began to suspect that the two men had perhaps spent the night at their picnic table and had walked here from who knows where.

I tried to stay aware but not particularly tense. It wasn’t fair to assume that just because they were down on their luck, they were inherently dangerous. But I was definitely uncomfortable.

Obviously, a person jogging (i.e. me) has no hope of keeping up with two people on bicycles, but the sidewalks looped back on themselves frequently so I basically kept my husband and son in sight as I trotted around. At one point, one of the men from the playground rode past me on a bicycle.

My first thought, from the innocent and naive part of my brain, was one of relief. See? He’s not homeless. He’s just here riding his bike like we are. Reality soon invaded as I noted he was very, very dirty. So was his backpack, which was carrying a water bottle, yes, but also quite a number of other things. No one goes on a morning bike ride with more than they need for that ride.

The young man under the pavilion soon disappeared into the bathroom again. When he returned, he was visibly shaking. He sat down so close to the woman that he looked like he was trying to push her off the bench. She wrapped her arms around him, rubbing his arms vigorously and then holding him tight. Drugs? I wondered. Maybe the frequent trips to the bathroom were due to illness, but if that was the case, these two were definitely living out of the car because given the choice, most anyone would rather be sick at home than at a public park. As if to confirm this, the two soon returned to the car – where the sun shade was placed in a side window that appeared to be missing and the humans nestled down out of sight.

At some point, probably around the time Hal was falling down after pitching his fit, I noticed I was alone. I circled around the playground but my husband was no longer in sight. I became intensely nervous. A young couple was in the vicinity somewhere – walking and talking. A bright red truck sat in a driveway of a parking lot – maybe good people? But sitting there not driving off was odd. And then there were the four street people hanging about.

It wasn’t that I was expecting them to be violent or anything. Not for the sake of violence, that is. But at some point in my run, I had opted to play some music from my phone. The phone was well hidden in a pouch in the small of my back, but the hiding place isn’t very hidden if music is blaring out of it. Obviously, no one is going to believe that the music is just coming out of my a**.

I hadn’t been deliberately hiding the phone to begin with. That’s just where I often carry it when running. And obviously, I wasn’t that concerned about people knowing I had it when I started up the music. But seeing that I was essentially alone – that my large and formidable husband was gone, put me on edge. What if they decided the potential to fence a smartphone was worth attacking me?

When my husband and son returned to view – probably slower than intended due to the youngster walking and crying rather than riding, I commented to my husband that I had been nervous.

“That’s why I offered you the keys to the truck,” he replied. So I wasn’t the only one who was maintaining some situational awareness. Of course, I already knew that when he worked to get my bike and its separated wheel into the backseat of the truck rather than just tossing it in the bed at the start of the morning.

After a little bit more “get back on your bike after an injury” riding time, we began loading up. As I attempted to extract the bike from the backseat, the bike riding guy hurried over to us, calling out. I was pretty sure he had said “sir” so I ignored him and focused on the wedged bike preventing the still unhappy child from crawling into the truck.

“Would you like to buy my bike, sir?” he asked. Glancing over at me, “So she can have one too?”

“She already has one,” my husband responded, gesturing toward my efforts.

“Mine’s a Schwinn. It’s a real good bike. I’ll make you a good deal – I’ve got four of them. I can let this one go.”

“She already has one but thank you.”

The man stood around for another minute while we loaded up, commenting that the brand of my bike was a good one but still offering to sell his. We were polite and thanked him for the offer. He walked off and then we drove off, glancing at the car of the other two as we did.

Other than that brief moment when I realized I was vulnerable and alone, I wasn’t particularly scared. Just acutely aware. It gave me a lot to think about though. Later in the day, assuming the weather cleared up, the park would be filled with families. Little children would swing on the swings and slide down the slides. Groups would gather under the pavilion to grill hot dogs, perhaps adding balloons and streamers to celebrate a birthday. This was how I was used to the park looking.

And these people would move off… somewhere. I had no idea where. They’d retreat from view though, possibly returning as it got dark and all the families with homes returned to them. I couldn’t help but feel, to some extent, that when we arrived so early that morning, we were actually invading their park time. Maybe I wasn’t the only one nervous.