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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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.

When The Mommy Taxi Runs Behind

This is how a Monday morning can go when a nine year old lives in the house.

I was running behind. It had been a very long weekend and I was reluctant to go to work. Or even get out of bed. But out of bed I must because being late isn’t a viable option for the third grade. His taxi must still run on time even if the taxi driver is out of gas.

This meant that when I stepped out of the shower and saw that it was 7:15 – the tail end of my 7:00-7:15 window for departure, I turned on the turbo thrusters. I quickly wrapped the towel around my torso and sought out the child.

“Hal,” I said in a brisk tone, looking approvingly at his completed state of dress, “Mommy is running behind. I need you to make sure you are completely ready to go because when I’m ready, we’ve got to fly out of here. Ok?”

“Ok.”

I then turned back to my bathroom where I put on my clothes, deodorant, makeup, hair cream, jewelry, and glasses before grabbing my cell phone off the charger and heading down the hall less than five minutes later.

Hal, on the other hand, went to the living room, lay down on the couch, and tried to start up the new video game he had on his laptop computer.

I flew through the living room calling out, “Ok, I just need to grab my lunch. It won’t take any time. We need to go or you’ll be late to school!”

I then grabbed my already-prepared lunch items and headed to the front door with them. He looked up from his laptop and said, “Mommy, something is wrong. I don’t have Subnautica or Steam anymore. It’s asking if I want to buy it!”

Standing by the front door, dropping the food into a tote bag, I responded, “Well, we’ll have to look at it this evening. We need to go now so you aren’t late. Come on! Close the laptop!”

He closed the laptop and slid off the couch. Then he walked unhurriedly into the dining room and looked at an unopened bag of French bread on the table. Without any sense of the urgency I was exhibiting by the front door, he pointed to the bread and asked, “Can I get some of this to eat?”

“No! I told you to make sure you were ready to go so we wouldn’t be late! That includes eating breakfast. We need to go NOW.”

“I just want to take some with me.”

“No! We. Are. Going. To. Be. Late. You should have thought of that earlier.”

“It would just take a minute for me to open the bag and tear off some bread,” he muttered tearfully as he picked up his backpack and headed toward me.

“True. And that’s a minute you should have taken earlier instead of trying to play a game on the computer!

This is the disconnect between parent and child. The child can’t believe the parent won’t let him take a minute to grab some food on his way out the door. The parent can’t believe the child ignored all the indicators that he needed to take care of business sooner.

And no amount of pointing to the clock in the car and discussing the situation closes that gap in perspective. Instead, the child sits in the backseat staring angrily at the back of the parent’s head while the parent oscillates back and forth between incredulity at the child’s cluelessness and guilt at making him skip breakfast.

Geeking Out Over Your Badge

Everyone has something they geek out over. Maybe something you don’t think other people care much about so you try to keep it under wraps most times. And then you unexpectedly encounter a kindred spirit, causing you to burst free from your constraints and revel in the moment of solidarity.

That happens to you, right?

Right?

Well, it happened to me recently. A co-worker stopped by my office and asked, “Do you ever get bothered by all the signs around here that say ‘Everyone must scan your badge‘?”

He didn’t get much further than “Everyone must” before I was jumping up and down, pointing at him, and saying “Yes! Yes! Oh, my goodness, yes! Those signs drive me crazy!”

“I mean,” he said, “I’m looking around thinking, ‘how many times do I have to hand out my badge so that everyone else can scan it?'”

“I thought the same thing! And I always wanted to say something to someone but I thought most people wouldn’t get it so I never have.”

“Well… that’s why I came to you. I knew you’d understand.”

“You definitely made the right call,” I said, still on a bit of an adrenaline rush that someone else had been bothered by the signs and said something to me. “If you had said something to Tony, he would have just given you a blank look or rolled his eyes and made a disparaging remark.”

“I mean,” I continued, “it’s a tricky problem, right? Because ‘Everyone’ means…”

“That it should be ‘his or her badge’ – I know,” he jumped in. “And that’s awkward on a sign but it’s still what’s right.”

“I’ve often thought about how they could reword it. I’d prefer ‘You must always scan your badge’.”

“Me too. Just say ‘Scan your badge! Every time!”

I don’t know how it is with other flavors of geeks, but having a moment with a fellow grammar geek can make a person’s day. And really, the world would be a better place if every establishment identified a grammar-geek-on-call that would be contacted before any text was committed to a sign or any other official or permanent communication.

Home Sweet Box

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“I want to sleep in my box tonight.”

“You are not sleeping in your box tonight.”

“But why not?!”

“It’s a school night! You can’t sleep in your box on a school night!”

“Being a school night makes no difference. I can sleep in my box.”

“But it won’t be comfortable. You won’t get a good night’s sleep.”

“Yes, I will. My box is wonderful. It’s so comfortable. It’s my new home!”

The box had arrived at our house the day before with my husband’s replacement recliner in it. It had sat in the back of the truck with the tailgate down, pulled right up to the front door of the house. The recliner had been removed from it and the box had remained in the truck bed. Hal had gone to work decorating it with Crayola marker rugs, pictures, refrigerator, bed, and many other more difficult to discern items.

He had been concerned about the fate of the box when he saw Sunday morning that the truck was gone. After I assured him the box was on the porch, he had leaped with excitement and crawled in to play until time for church. It was now the afternoon and I was preparing to leave the house.

“If you are going to sleep in the box,” I said, “it needs to come in the house.”

“NOOOOooooooo!! I want to sleep in it out here!”

“What?! No! You can’t sleep in it out here!” I said, slightly shocked. A glance at the twinkle in my husband’s eye made it clear I’d get no help from him.

“Why not?!”

“Because you wouldn’t be sleeping behind a locked door.”

“I want to sleep out here,” he insisted.

“Maybe I could sleep out here with him,” my husband suggested.

“Yes!!!”

With a sigh, I muttered, “whatever” before climbing in the car to head out.

Hal then passed the afternoon, at least in part, attempting to watch the first episode of the first season of Stranger Things. He was motivated to give it a shot because of the Stranger Things themed game he had downloaded onto his tablet. From what I hear, he didn’t get very far before he deemed it too scary. Something we had already told him.

That night, as we walked from the dark church through the dark parking lot to head home, he told his dad, “I hope the Demogorgon doesn’t come tonight.”

“Well, if he does, I guess he’ll get you first.”

“What?! Why?!”

“Because you are sleeping outside. Remember?”

“Oh. Yeah. I changed my mind about that.”

The Karaoke Tribe

Hal had received some books from his grandmother for his ninth birthday. I hadn’t looked at them closely but they looked like biographies of less famous American historical figures geared toward younger children. I noticed him reading one of them one morning as he waited for me to be ready to take him to school.

“What book were you reading?” I asked as we headed down the driveway.

“The Journal of Jesse Smoke.”

“Smoke? S-M-O-K-E?”

“Yes.”

“How is it?”

“Good. It’s written like it’s his diary except he doesn’t share his feelings.”

“OK. I don’t know Jesse Smoke. Who was he? It’s a true story, isn’t it?”

“I think so but I don’t know he was. I haven’t read much of it yet.”

“Well, when you get further into it, please tell me about him. I’d like to learn.”

And with that, he absorbed himself in the book (which had to be tricky since he had just finished wrapping himself up as a pretzel inside his hoodie to protect against that oh-gosh-so-awfully-cold-Texas-October morning weather).

After a few minutes of silence from the backseat, he announced, “Mommy, I don’t think this is a true story. A bunch of people just turned themselves into bears to go down a hole. And – if you are a real human, you can’t just turn yourself into a bear.”

I was fairly certain this was an historical book, so I took a guess and said, “Well, there were Indian tribes who basically believed they could turn themselves into animals. Maybe he’s telling one of his people’s stories as if he believes it to be true.”

There was a slight pause.

“He’s a Karaoke boy.”

“A what?”

“A Karaoke boy.”

“Spell it.”

“C-H…. E…. R-O…. K-E-E.”

I was very careful not to laugh. “Cherokee, honey. The word is Cherokee. They are an Indian tribe, Native Americans.”

One of the most fun parts of being a parent has been listening to my young readers try to pronounce the words that they’ve only seen in print. To combine Hal’s mispronunciations with Daryl’s most famous from years ago, it sounds like Jesse Smoke comes from a family of Karaoke Madge-i-cans. (Magicians).