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.”

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Magical Basketball

There’s an elf on Hal’s basketball team.

I’m serious.

There are 5 normal, uncoordinated, barely-understand-the-rules, clueless little boys, 1 phenom that scores all the points and wins the games, and an elf (who also happens to be uncoordinated and clueless and barely understands the rules, but he’ll grow to have magical powers so it’s all cool).

As we sat at one of the recent games, I argued my case to my husband.

“Just look! I tell you he’s an elf.”

He just smiled at me.

“See his hair? It hangs down almost to his eyes and down in front of his ears in sharp points, which emphasizes his ears. Which aren’t pointy yet, but I think that’s just because he’s young. Give him some time.”

My husband laughed.

The elf boy is thin and fairly uncoordinated so at one point I said, “He doesn’t have the graceful movement yet but that comes with age too.”

“Oh, it does?”

“Of course it does. You read The Last Dragon! That poor helpless child elf was clueless and clumsy. He didn’t know how to do any magic but it came with time. Give this one some time. Eventually, he’ll be the most beautiful person on the court. Trust me.”

“So are you saying he can shoot arrows through brass rings at a hundred yards?”

“Not yet. Too young. He’ll get there though.”

“Mhhm-hmm.”

At one point, the magical creature walked close to us and I saw why his eyes had looked so big and dark at a distance.

“Look!” I said to my amused husband. “Just look at his eyelashes! No one has eyelashes that long except elves. I’m telling you, it’s true. I’m surprised no one else has noticed.”

“I’m glad you are so entertained by River,” my husband said.

“River? His name is River? Really?” I asked.

“You haven’t stayed for any basketball practices, have you?”

“No. But come on! The name bolsters my argument. That’s a nature name – elves are one with nature. It’s an elf name!”

I saw an adult man talking with River in a fatherly fashion near the end of the game. The man certainly did not look like an elf. Not at all. So I can only assume that since elves do not walk openly among us, this man had been hired to act in this care-taking role while in public spaces. The elves obviously wanted to give their boy the best opportunity to interact with other children. Because anyone who knows anything about elves knows that they don’t have children very often. There’s probably no one in his extended family close to his age.

So here he is, playing basketball with my son. Who, just like everyone else in the gym except me, is clueless he’s playing with magical greatness in the making.

The Pep Talk

My husband had a tale to share with me when I got home from work yesterday. Over dinner, he simply said, “Remind me later to tell you about The Pep Talk.”

So later, when the children were not around, I asked him to tell me about The Pep Talk. And he did.

He was in the shower and when he got out, he could hear six year-old Hal giving a rousing pep talk in our bedroom. My husband’s face got animated as he recited what he had heard in a measured tone, carefully delivered to build excitement.

“Ok, guys. Here’s what we’ve got. We don’t have a week. We don’t have a month. We don’t have a year. We’ve got now. Now is all we’ve got. It has to be now. You got it?”

My husband told me to imagine the best football coach’s pep talk mixed with a professional wrestler’s smack talk interview mixed with the worst used car commercial I had ever heard. That’s how little Hal sounded. It was a perfect blend. He transitioned seamlessly from one to another and back again.

Then my husband had walked into the room and found a selection of Hal’s stuffed animals arranged in a pristine semi-circle on our bed.

“You’ve got to take down those bad guys! You’ve got to destroy them. You can do this! I believe in you! It all depends on you! Are you ready? Let’s do this! Today! Today! Today! Today! Today!”

He then returned to his own room, where he addressed the remaining stuffed animals, hanging out in the newly created “zoo” mounted on the wall above his bunk bed.

“I’m sorry that you guys can’t go. You are still my best guys. You are. You just didn’t get signed up in time. I’m so sorry.”

This empathetic speech, as if this pending battle or competition was equivalent to signing up for summer camp, was related to me through tears as my husband was laughing too hard to get the story out coherently.

I wish I had been there. Oh, how I wish I had been there.

There’s A Story Here

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There’s a story here.

I’m not sure what the story is, but this is definitely not some random collection of dropped toys. Someone very deliberately arranged them exactly how he wanted them.

What story is he trying to tell, I wonder?

Is the circle of vehicles friendly or hostile?

Is the fireman in trouble or leading the group?

If leading, are they up to no good or about to save the world?

Is it significant that the fireman’s fire extinguisher is a foot away, well out of his reach?

Why is he lying down?

Maybe that indicates he’s in trouble. But I could have sworn the Autobots were the good guys. Maybe they found him collapsed and are now asking if he’s ok.

When did they assemble?

And why weren’t they put away when their creator went to bed?

And did I really need to use the flash, thereby exposing to the world how desperately we need to vacuum?

I’ll just ask that you pretend that’s the only part of the carpet that looks like that. And I’ll have to ask the boy to tell me the story. I know he’s got one.

A Macabre Imagination

Hal wanted to play in the backyard at his Denver grandma’s house recently.  The problem is, he’s not allowed back there without someone watching him.  I stepped up to the task and joined him outside.  I was relieved that he wanted to do something besides either play a game on his Nintendo DS or stare in awe as his brother played Minecraft.

We were soon engaged in some very… imaginative… play.

He handed me a small tree branch with many, many thin limbs and announced that it was my sword.  He pointed to the largest one (still smaller in diameter than the average pencil) and said, “If this one breaks off, you have plenty of others to use instead.”  He brushed his hand across the other “blades”.  I swished it back and forth, which he appreciated.  I declared it a tickle sword and tickled his belly with it.  He shrieked and ran away.

He soon approached me with his laser death ray.  As he pointed it at me, I desperately swished my tickle sword in the air between us.  He declared me dead.  I objected, saying that my tickle sword had disrupted the air between us and his death ray had not made it to me.  He grudgingly admitted that I was indeed not dead.

We then went through several rounds of “Pretend that…”  That’s the game where only one person (the youngest) is permitted to use his or her imagination.  He’s the stage director, the script writer, the producer, and the main actor.  He helpfully supplies my lines each step of the way: “Pretend that you didn’t see me and you heard a sound.  And then say ‘Oh, no!  What is that sound?!'”

My husband joined us at some point.  He and I sat on the porch swing while Hal ran around and acted out his imagination.  At one point, he told us to close our eyes and pretend that he had been “over here sleeping” and we had failed to notice that he had sneaked out.  When Daddy didn’t close his eyes, Hal amended the instructions to just pretend we hadn’t seen him.  He then acted out a fantastical and dangerous scenario with dragons and then pretended to wake up and tell us that he had had this terrible dream!

To his delight, I hammed it up and joined in enthusiastically.  My husband glanced at me periodically with raised eyebrows.  I laughed even harder.

Eventually, Hal tired of being the sleeping boy and decided he was a “Zombie Pigman”.  He walked around the deck with outstretched arms and stiff legs, snorting loudly through his nose.  He approached me and attacked before I could fully raise my tickle sword in defense.  I tried in vain to fend him off but in the end, lost first my sword and then the battle.  The Zombie Pigman strutted triumphantly away.

He headed to the sleeping area of the little boy next.  “Aha!” he announced. “I am going to steal this little boy while he sleeps!”

I leaped from the swing.  “Oh no you don’t!” I announced. “You leave my little boy alone!”

I rushed toward him and he snatched the imaginary boy and took off.  I grabbed at him and he quickly pantomimed eating his victim.  I pulled away and declared triumph, cradling my precious cargo to my chest as I returned to the swing.  He claimed it was too late, he had already eaten my son.  I pretended to rock my child and explained that he had managed to eat only the right pinky finger before I had pulled him to safety.

The Zombie Pigman lunged toward the swing and reached for the child.  I pulled back.  He claimed he got it.  I disagreed.  “But I’m stronger than you!” he explained.

I laughed.  “Stronger than a fierce momma protecting her dear baby?!  I don’t think so!”

“Fine.” he said, walking away.  “I’ll just go find a baby that no one cares about.”

The Inner Dragon Let Loose

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A stone support near the entrance of our local Braum’s.

It’s Vacation Bible School week.  The coolest thing about Vacation Bible School week is that we go out with friends for ice cream at Braum’s nearly every night afterwards.  This is a pretty crazy thing to do since it’s already bedtime when we get there but, hey, it’s summertime.  Why not?

I was standing near the above pictured item with Daryl while Hal and Daddy fetched some bread and bananas from the market before we left.  (If you don’t live in a close enough radius to Western Oklahoma, then you may not know what Braum’s is.  It’s primarily an ice cream store except it also has great hamburgers and cherry limeades… and a pretty decent grocery section where we buy eggs, milk, bread, and some produce.)

Anyway, I was standing there with Daryl, who was wound up and hyper.  He was hopping around and throwing his arms around and talking trash like a rapper.  Actually, he looked more like a pale, skinny, nerdy white kid trying to imitate a rapper, which made it kind of hard not to laugh.

“Momma, momma.  I’m tellin’ ya.  I’m gettin’ ready to let loose.  I’m gettin’ ready to let loose my inner dragon all over this stone plinth here.” He slapped his hand on the support in demonstration.  “I’m gonna let loose my inner dragon on this stone plinth.”

Ok, let’s just set aside the whole “inner dragon” business for a minute.  My ten year old son used the word “plinth” in conversation.  I mean, who does that?  *I* don’t even do that.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the word spoken before.  It doesn’t come up in everyday conversation.  It just doesn’t.  Unless you are talking to Daryl, that is.  Which is what makes him so awesome.

Now, I must have heard the word before, because as soon as he said it, I corrected his long I sound: “It’s plinth, not ply-nth.”

He paused from his tough guy act.  “Are you sure?”

“Not positive, but I’m pretty sure it’s plinth.  You can go ask Daddy.”

He returned from checking with his dad to tell me it’s pronounced “ply-nth”.  The tone of his voice would have been enough to label that a lie even if I hadn’t heard his dad protesting in the background.

This kid uses the vocabulary he gains from books, which makes him awesome.  And the fact that he mispronounces almost all of them doesn’t faze him one bit.  Which makes him doubly awesome.  I love this kid.  And that crazy inner dragon of his.

Child’s Play

He was dragging a Crepe Myrtle branch taller than himself up to the sidewalk.  The branch was void of any foliage, smooth, thick, and hard, with a five-way fork at the top.  Setting the branch upright with the fork up, he reached his little hand in to extract a much smaller branch trapped inside.

I was standing unnoticed about 10 feet away, weed-eater motionless as I watched him at his task.  He was so absorbed in his play, that I couldn’t help but observe.  It was a rare and magical opportunity to watch my youngest child play alone and unaware of my watching.  He shortly succeeded in wrenching the branch free.  I could tell by his face that the stick was already forgotten as he prepared to toss it over his shoulder.

Suddenly, he stopped.  He took another look at the stick and a small smile formed on my lips.  The wheels in his mind were beginning to turn as he studied it carefully.  I thought I knew what was coming next and I settled in to see it play out.

The stick was maybe a foot long and curved down sharply at an almost ninety degree angle near one end.  It looked roughly like an old pistol you might see in a pirate movie.  Only, he was holding it with the long barrel traveling back up his arm, as riot police might hold their batons when attempting to break up a crowd.

He turned his arm to and fro, looking at the stick from different angles, the Crepe Myrtle branch temporarily forgotten.  He loosened his grip so the stick could swing around and point out from his hand.  He paused, stick pointed down and forward as he considered.  Slowly, he raised the stick slightly in the air, still with a look of consideration on his face.  When the stick was sufficiently raised, still keeping a close eye on the stick, his lips puckered slightly.

“Pe-you!  Pe-you!” he said quietly, jerking the end up slightly with each sound.  Then he nodded faintly, as if confirming its worth as a toy gun, before dropping it to return to the larger branch.  Apparently, warfare was not on the make-believe agenda that day.

He looked up then and saw me watching.  He smiled shyly and swung the tall branch between us, attempting to determine its possible use.  The spell broken, I turned back to my task and let him return to his play, a warm feeling in my chest.