So It Wasn’t a Lawn Mower…..

We had quite the excitement this afternoon around the homeplace.  So much excitement.

It would seem that a tractor-thieving fugitive was holed up in the woods somewhere behind our house.  Or in that general vicinity.

I can’t make this stuff up, y’all.

He and his buddy, who was driving the truck and trailer with the tractor on it, were stopped.  He ran.  His buddy didn’t.  His buddy was arrested. He hightailed it into the woods.

It all started with the lawn mower outside that was rather loud.  Miss Sophie announced it even louder.  It was a while before I discovered two things–first, that the alleged lawn mower was actually a search helicopter, and second, that Miss Sophie is smarter than I am.  But then again, she does bark at lawn mowers too so maybe not.

I learned a few other things today in the midst of the massive search that had our neighborhood swarming with policemen and Georgia State Patrol vehicles.  In all of this, we did not know at the time it was a tractor thief they were looking for.  We just knew they were looking for “someone.”

The first thing I learned is that one cannot homeschool when there is a massive large scale manhunt going on.  It’s just too exciting, apparently, as my littles went from window to window watching for the bad guy, giving their word that they heard someone holler, “Run, he’s got a gun!” and that they saw someone behind our house in the woods.  Which they did.  But he was a good guy.  As for the hollering, I have no idea.  I do tend to encourage active imaginations around here.  So there’s that.

I also had it impressed upon me once again that I have the best neighborfriends ever.  The three of us who were still home over this way were texting and calling back and forth and promising to walk out at the same time when we had to leave our homes.  It was actually my sweet neighborfriend who alerted me to what was going on.  When I didn’t answer my phone (long story), she came over very concerned that we’d been “gotten.”

It’s the absolute best when folks love you enough to worry if you might’ve been gotten.  I mean, really and truly, it is.

I also discovered today that I can act braver than I feel–at least when my children are around.  And I learned that my OCD about locked doors and such is only heightened in potential crisis situations.  I will not share how many times I checked the doors, but suffice to say, it was somewhere between two and aplenty.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing I learned is that raising my youngest is going to be a great challenge, and I’m getting old, y’all.  I’m tired.  And that boy…..

This evening on our way home from our day to dailies, breathing much easier because the one who took the tractor and “run oft” had been taken into custody, my little guy asked me a question.  I had told them in no uncertain terms that they were NOT TO ANSWER THE DOOR OR EVEN GO NEAR IT IF THEY HEARD SOMEONE KNOCKING.

“Mama, what would you have done if that little guy had come to the door and knocked and asked for help?” Cooter asked.  (I have no idea why he was “little” or why Cooter was asking in such a pitiful tone of voice.)

“What do you mean, asked for help?”

“Well, you said he was running in the woods, looking for a place to hide.  What if he came to our door, asking for help, looking for a place to hide?”

I looked and him, and I’m sure I looked as tired as I feel. “You mean, let him in, to stay here and hide from the law?”

He squirmed.  “Well, I mean, no, well, yes, I mean if he needs help.  And he would really be needing it, scared and looking for a safe place and all.”

Maybe we’ve had too many conversations about real life stuff around here, but that is so not what I meant when we talked about folks needing help and shelter.  And I’m pretty sure Cooter knew that.  Sometimes he tries to get my goat just to entertain himself.

So that’s when my little guy found himself in the middle of a conversation about right and wrong and aid and abetting and being an accessory to a crime.

I think he might get it now.

If only I did.  I have taught them we are called to help folks in need, but then…..oh me.  There is no such thing as clear cut black and white anymore, y’all.  Grey.  It’s all grey to me.

Tonight I’m thankful for good neighbors and folks who offer to walk the dog with you so you will be safe.  I’m thankful for folks who care if I’ve been gotten, and I’m thankful that my littles were not frightened by what happened today.  I know all stealing and wrongdoing and criminal activity is wrong, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thankful it was a tractor thief they were searching for today and not something else.  Most of all, I’m thankful for my children who keep me on my toes and help me think through the hard questions.

Here’s hoping for a less exciting day tomorrow.

Love to all.

tractor stolen in houston county, ga

The tractor back, safe and sound.  

The New Thing Cooter Says

Cooter tickles me.

He can also frustrate me to no end, but that’s a story for another time.

He can be such a little old man in his eight year old body.  He is trying to figure out who he is and where he is headed in our world, our community, but mostly right here in our very own house and family.  With Mama and two big sisters and a female dog and cat, he and the Fella are outnumbered.

My little guy can get overwrought sometimes–like when he wishes his sister would play with him instead of “her friends” *insert his eye roll here* or when he misses his oldest sister away at college or when I go too many days between serving foods from his favorite food group–the “beige” one–and he’s soooooo hungry.

Bless.  Just bless him.

But sometimes he surprises me with his adaptability.  Or agreeability.  Often it’s a little of both, or it’s that he is trying to play it cool and doesn’t want me to know how much he likes what I’ve just said.  Whatever it is, he has a new mantra.

Cooter’s new words that he tends to say in response multiple times a day are:

“Yeah. Sure. Why not?”

Very often a shrug is thrown in there for good measure.

“Hey Cooter, you want to run in the grocery store with me while your sisters wait in the car?”

“Yeah, sure.  Why not?”

“Hey Cooter, you up for a sandwich from CFA for supper?”

“Yeah, sure.  Why not?”

“Hey buddy, wanna walk with me while I take Sophie out?”

“Yeah, sure.  Why not?”

Instead of this being a sarcastic reply or the least bit flippant, he actually pauses in serious thought before he offers this answer.  His tone carries a lilt of genuineness, with the emphasis on the ‘why not’ bit.  As in well, sure, why wouldn’t I want to join you in the store, Mama?  I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do than be with you as you tackle that list you forgot to bring with you.  Again.

Okay, maybe that last bit was slightly exaggerated, but still–when he says “yeah, sure, why not?” it tickles my soul and gladdens my heart, because even though he’s trying to be too cool to get REALLY excited about something, that little bit of nonchalance is merely masking his true heart.  Goodness knows that boy knows how to say NO a hundred different ways if that were his answer.  Rest assured if you hear him say these new words, what he’s really saying deep down is, “Yes, thank you, that sounds GREAT!”

Maybe he’s trying to balance out his sister, our Princess, whose reactions can vary from “BEST. DAY. EVER” to “yes yes yes yes yes oh please yes thankyousomuch I can’t wait” to “I love this so much, and isn’t it the greatest thing you’ve ever seen?”

Personalities are fascinating, aren’t they?  I don’t know if they could be any more different.

Still I think both responses serve them well.  I’ve always loved our girl’s enthusiasm, and now I’m gaining a whole new appreciation for Cooter’s laid back vibe.

May we all be willing to look at something right in front of us and say, “Yeah, sure.  Why not?”  Who knows, it just might lead to our “BEST DAY EVER!”

Love to all.

Cooter in a tractor wheel? Yeah, sure.  Why not?

Cooter in a tractor tire? Yeah, sure. Why not?

Q-Tips, Art, and How the Little Moments Matter

A couple of weeks ago at Evening Prayer we talked about the little moments.  The little moments of kindness, of opening a door, offering a smile, saying hello, picking up a piece of trash and disposing of it, giving a hug, carrying a sack of groceries for someone, calling a friend–all of these little moments add up to one good story.  Sarah Thebarge compared the idea to pointillism–all those little moments create something beautiful.

So to bring the idea home with our folks there that night, we painted.

Pointillism.

My artist friend recommended we use q-tips.  I love q-tips–so versatile and easy to find at the store.  And I love my artist friend for suggesting them, because I had the paints and the canvas, but I hadn’t been able to find the right sort of brushes.

BINGO.

One of my samples--idea from Pinterest

One of my samples–idea from Pinterest

I enjoyed this one. Just colors all over the place.

I enjoyed this one. Just colors all over the place.

This was Aub's somewhat abstract turtles. One of my favorites of the night.

This was Aub’s somewhat abstract turtles. One of my favorites of the night.

And so we painted.  There were all kinds of wonderful variations on the ones that I showed as examples.  (Hello, Pinterest, you are my friend.)  Not one single person complained or threw their hands up in frustration.  There was good conversation and laughter and I heard more than one person say how much fun it was.

Must have been the q-tips.  They do make a party fun.

IMG_0175

I had bought some paper shapes for the children to paint, if they wanted, or if they finished a canvas and wanted to continue creating.  It was Cooter who came over and asked to paint, sitting in my lap.  He is eight, and I know this won’t last much longer.  Sure, buddy, pull up a q-tip.

I pulled out a paper cutout of a person.  He went to town on it.  Painting with many q-tips and all kinds of colors, I think he had finished three people by the time we left.

And since then?  When I can’t find him during our school days or on the weekends, I can usually go to the back porch and find him painting away.

How many characters can you spot?  There's Harry, Fred and George (see their "sweaters"), He Who Must Not Be Named, and SOOOO many others.

How many characters can you spot? There’s Harry, Fred and George (see their “sweaters”), He Who Must Not Be Named, and SOOOO many others.

You see, he’s working on painting all of the characters from the Harry Potter books. I think he’s up to Book 4.

All the characters, y’all.  Some obscure, some not so much.  But for painting with a q-tip, I think he’s doing quite well.  It’s been funny to me that he has yet to ask to use one of the brushes sitting back there, right there with the paints.

This is a child who doesn’t see himself as an artist or artistic at all.  Yet this project has struck a chord with him.  He enjoys it, and I love that it resets his brain–he comes away from painting with paint all over all the things *sigh*, his hands included, and with a smile on his face and a lift in his spirit.

I love that so much.  Who would’ve thought it?

Best purchase ever.  So much so, that yes, when I get back over to that store, we are picking up more of those.

After all, he has three more books to get through.

I’ve told him that I thought we would string them up across his wall or something to display them.  He’s thinking about putting them in a book.  We really haven’t decided, but whatever we do, I hope they always bring a smile to his face as much as they do now.

May we all find something that brings us so much joy.  And may we do all the little things we can to live a good story and paint a lovely picture.

Love to all.

plaid shorts and t-shirts

of all the things
that have changed in my life
since they first laid that little boy across my chest
and I gazed into those eyes
and held that little hand

like the way I tackled a diaper
and finding Matchbox cars in my bag
and on the counter
and all the places,
Star Wars characters in the refrigerator,
the big rush to do all the things like
flying down the street on his bike,
hair in the wind behind him

play that looks like wrestling
and when I ask “are y’all okay?”
they look at me puzzled, perhaps bemused
and go right back to their body twists
tangling, laughing the whole time

I think my biggest surprise
that has brought me such joy is
watching him with his friend
as they grab fists and bump each other’s backs
just as we watch the grown men do
who are “with it” and “cool”

they are so serious
and yet, still so small,
and it makes me smile

but my favorite thing has to be
the way he dresses himself
so assured
in plaid shorts and a t-shirt
that match in no way whatsoever

and so they almost do

and I think that glimpse of
confidence
and of the man he will become
is what warms my heart the most
and makes me weep
at just how fast time is passing

as little boys
become men
one day at a time

You Are More

Cooter has become fascinated with stories of things people got in trouble for when they were his age.  He has had many conversations with his Daddy about his.  Recently he asked Leroy if he got in trouble at school.  Leroy told him he couldn’t tell them what all he did when he was younger.  I think Cooter was a little scared and a whole lot in awe of his uncle.

He asked me the same question recently.  I decided to tell him the truth.  Something I’ve been carrying around for a long time.  Something I’m not proud of, and I still hang my head when I tell it.

And so I confessed to my eight year old son.  When I was not much older than him, I was sitting in the lunchroom in between my friend and LP (the one who had bullied me the year before and had pulled my thumb back over and over and my parents had told me to kick him in the shin).  I always took my lunch, but the two of them had each bought their lunches.  I don’t know what else was on the menu that day but for sure there was cornbread and something that ketchup could complement.  Everyone was done eating, and we were just waiting to be told to line up to head back to the classroom.  My friend nudged me, handed me her ketchup, and whispered for me to pour it over LP’s uneaten cornbread.  We both knew he was done eating, but she thought it would be funny, and in the moment, I thought she was funny and while something was rippling in the back of my brain, I took the little paper cup of ketchup and squeezed it out over his cornbread while he was turned talking to the person on his left.  And we waited.

We could hardly stand it.  When he turned back around and saw the ketchup, his face turned nearly as red as the condiment.  We giggled behind our hands and between each other.  He was mad.  And so he did what most fourth graders do when they are mad–he told the teacher on us.

Oh me.  This was a joke gone horribly wrong.  One that gave us two or three days sitting out at recess.  This was back before PE, back when we could talk amongst ourselves and play near about anything we wanted to.  So missing any recess was a huge loss. To add insult to injury this teacher had taught my Uncle and my Daddy, and I felt like I had let her and pretty much the whole world down with my poor judgment and horribleness.  My heart was broken over what I was sure was absolutely my worst day ever.  At least the worst thing I had ever done.

Cooter laughed.  He barely squeaked out, “Ketchup?  Really?”  Yes, and don’t make light of it, buddy.  I learned that lesson. Not my plate.  Not my cornbread.  Doesn’t matter if he wasn’t going to eat it.  Doesn’t matter if someone else “told” me to do it.   I have my own brain, and I didn’t use it that day.  I was all about the fitting in and giggles and all the feel good of that moment.  And the truth that I now realize as an adult is that the reason LP told on us was probably because he saw us giggling together and he didn’t feel like he fit in.  It wasn’t about the ketchup on the cornbread, it was about our singling him out.

I’m so sorry, LP.

The thing is, whenever I do something that is less than my best or I make a mistake or I inadvertently do or say the wrong thing, I’m in fourth grade again.  I’m nine and my face is beet red and I’m looking Mrs. W in the eyes as she looks at me and my friend with disappointment and tell us we can’t play at recess.  I’m sitting next to her or whatever teacher is out there and trying to explain my embarrassing predicament to those who want to know why we aren’t playing.

Life is hard, y’all.

But here’s the good news.

I am more than that mistake.

I am more than the wrong I inflicted upon LP and his cornbread.

I am bigger than the poor choice I made.

I am more than my worst day.

And so, my friend, are you.

My beautiful friend Marilyn and I were talking about this earlier.  She gave me the grace and encouragement I needed today.  That I need everyday. We all make mistakes.  None of us have lived a flaw-free life, one where we have never, ever crossed a line or hurt anyone.  We all have stories we’d rather not have to share.

Let ’em go.

We are more.

We are the love we share.  The hugs we give.  The light that shines from who we have become and what we do–and who we are becoming.  We are all the right choices we have made over the years as well.

Do not let your one ketchup-pouring moment define you.

Because there is grace.  There is redemption.  There are second and third and twenty-twelfth chances.  You can do this.  You can turn it around.  As long as you have breath, the possibility exists–you can do better.  And become more.

More than those poor choices.  Those bad moments.  Those mistakes that you really didn’t set out to make.

And to be honest, this was not my only non-stellar moment from my life–it’s not even my only non-stellar moment from that year.  But it is the one that sticks out, as I was so grieved over all those I’d disappointed.  I had to look them in the eyes and face what I’d done.

And you know what?  A few days later, grace won.  Love won.  My time “sitting out” was done, and the slate was clean.

Redemption is real.  And attainable.  And free.

May we all let go of our worst moments.  And allow others to let go of theirs.  Our most painful mistakes.  And may we look in the mirror and offer the grace we so freely give to others to the one looking back at us.

Love and grace to all.

Parenting with Ambiguity, Or I Might Have Messed Up Today–Still Not Sure

Despite this week having a lot of hard bits in it, we had a major win for the Zoo Crew.  Cooter, who two years ago was in first grade and barely able to read Old Hat, New Hat, finished the fourth Harry Potter book.  All 752 pages.  He’s been working away at it for a while, but has really been intent on finishing it for the past ten days or so.  To the point where I find him curled up with the book on a couch or bed or floor when he should be doing his math or spelling or science, and I can’t find him.

He was so excited when he finished the last chapter yesterday.

So was I.

Just typing that he read that whole book brought the realization home–he really has learned to read.  And read well.

I am so thankful I cannot even fully express it in words.

Not all the day to dailies of parenting are like that though.  A clear-cut win or failure.  So many of my parenting moments are cloudy–I’m not sure where they fall until much later, if ever.

Like today.

One of our deals about Cooter reading the Harry Potter books has been that once he reads the book he can watch the corresponding movie.  That has gone well until this one, which is the first one rated PG-13.

Still, I was open to trying it with the crew.  Our Princess has read all of the books multiple times, and she has been waiting patiently to watch the movies after her brother finishes the books.  She has been a great encourager and cheerleader for her brother.  I am proud of her for that.  She so could have put on the pressure and made it a miserable experience for him.

I told my littles this morning that if they helped get the house in order, they could watch the movie this evening with their big sister home from college.  They were excited and eager to do so.

Until they forgot.

I was out running errands, having left them with instructions of what I expected them to do.  I even went so far as to say no electronics (aka “Minecraft”) until after I got back and approved the jobs they’d done.

Ahem.

So imagine my surprise (read: disappointment) when I came in and discovered that not only had they not finished their tasks, they were on their devices, having misinformed their sister of what their instructions had been.

Not cool.  Not cool at all.

So I now share my room with two devices which won’t see the light of day or my littles’ hands anytime soon.

Off they went.  Before lunch was ready and after–picking up, putting away, sorting, and tidying up.  Their “messes” had grown legs and traveled into more rooms than their own, so they had quite a bit to do.

From time to time or twelve, they lost their focus and started playing Legos or trying to put together their Halloween costumes or re-read the favorite parts of a book or two.

*sigh*  The struggle is real.  Focus is a lost art.

Mid-afternoon one of our Princess’ friends came over and asked if she could play.  This sweet friend came to the door with her infectious smile and bubbling over with stories from her day.  She is adorable and pretty much an answer to prayers.  She is a good friend to my middle child, and I’m thankful for her.  Princess came rushing to the door and begging me first with her eyes and then her words, “Please.  PLEASE?”

The weather here has been a mess the past several days.  Rainy, misty, and finally a little cooler to go with it yesterday and today.  It seemed rather nice, if not still a little damp out, this afternoon.  I KNOW my children need to run around and play outside and get fresh air, something they haven’t really been able to do the past few days.  Still, I wondered what kind of precedent I was setting by letting her go play when all of her picking up wasn’t done.

I let her go.

And I let Cooter go out and play too.

Their smiles and the laughter and the sounds of children’s imaginations coming up with all kinds of storylines to play out was music to my ears.  Which was good because what my eyes saw that was undone in this house was not making me very happy.

I called my two back in at supper.  I knew we were about to board the struggle bus, as I was going to have to dole out the consequences.  No movie tonight.  They hadn’t upheld their part of the bargain.  Instead of focusing and getting the odd jobs and picking up that I’d given them to do before watching the movie, they had dilly-dallied much of the day.  And then this afternoon and evening, they chose to continue playing outside instead of finishing their work.  I had even reminded them of the consequences if they kept playing.

But here’s where my heart was torn. They had chosen to PLAY OUTSIDE with their friends instead of coming in and doing what they needed to do to be able to watch the movie.

I have to say, that despite the untidy house, I’m kind of pleased that they chose outside and relationships over watching a movie.  Not happy about the house, but definitely pleased that they chose as they did.

Which doesn’t even make much sense, does it?

Well, the mess will still be here tomorrow, and I will supervise a little closer so they will stay focused.  I hope.  Together we will get it done.  And one day, probably not tomorrow, they will get to watch the movie.  And it will be spectacular.  But tonight what I’m celebrating is my children’s priorities.  Skewed as this may sound, I give thanks that they chose their friends over a movie.

And you know what else?  They didn’t really sound off much when I laid down the law and said “no” to the movie.  After the initial thirty-second pout by Cooter, they ate their supper talking about what they’d been playing with their friends and who said what, and it was wonderful.

Relationships.  People.  Every single time.

(and the house–I know.  But we will get to that tomorrow.)

I know that today wasn’t my shining moment as a parent, because I’m still confused if I handled things as I should have.  Perhaps I should have kept them locked inside until all the chores were done.  I don’t know.  Somehow it just felt wrong in that moment.

And goodness knows they sure fell asleep fast and well tonight, from all that playing and adventuring.

I might never know if any of my decisions were right, wrong, or otherwise.  All I can do, in the words of my Mama, “is the best I can with what I have in that moment.”

And that was today.

May we all choose people over the other stuff in this life.  Every single time.

Love to all.

A Question for the Prodigal Son’s Father

A question.

Just one.

This afternoon was one of those hazy, gray days with just enough drizzle that you were never quite sure if it was raining or not.  There was a little bit of a chill in the air, and it was very quiet in our neighborhood.  The streets usually overrun with children after school were empty.

My littles were working on their lessons.  I was taking care of my day to dailies when our Princess came in and asked me if she could go outside.  I looked out the windows to my right just in case I was wrong and the skies had turned blue and sunny in the last thirty seconds.

No.  They hadn’t.

“I don’t think so.  It’s raining outside, isn’t it?”

“But Cooter’s out there,” she said, just enough above a whine not to get called out for it but close enough that her message got through.

“No, he’s not supposed to be,” I told her, as I remembered him commenting on his buddies being outside.  (To which I had said, No, you’re not going out there.)

We started searching the house, calling his name.  Nothing.  Miss Sophie followed us around, and I headed straight for the front door.

Only I saw no one.  “I’m going outside,” I called out, and I took off across the yard, hollering his name like I was back home in the country again.

I didn’t care.

The street was so quiet, it was almost unbearable.  The silence was tangible, and it wrapped around my throat and heart, nearly choking me.

I looked back at the house and realized the garage was open, so he most likely had his bike.  Only it wasn’t flung down in someone’s front yard like it normally is, a surefire clue to where he could be.

The silence was suffocating me.  I kept walking.  One foot in front of the other.

In that moment, all I could picture was trying to tell the Fella that I’d lost our boy. And what on earth I would say to the 911 operator.

Thankfully in the next moment, as I got about 2/3 of the way up the street, I saw a glint of yellow.  His bike?

And then his face.

I nearly wept right then as ALL THE FEELS washed over me.  You name it, I felt it.

Mostly I was exhausted.  That had been the longest walk down our little street that I’ve ever had.

From where he was, he saw my face and said nothing.  As I couldn’t speak, I pointed at our house.  He all but flew past me on his bike and into the garage out of sight.  I slowly turned around and started back toward the house.  One foot in front of the other.

I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew he was in big trouble.  Possibly the biggest he’s ever been in.

When I got in the house, I was all prepared to light into him, but I did take a moment.  And I breathed.

He looked so small and uncertain and maybe a little scared sitting on the couch across from me.  All of the anger melted away for a second.  I or Someone reminded me that the worst hadn’t happened.  I had my child right here with me.  He was okay.

“Come here, buddy,” I choked out.  And he knew exactly what I wanted.  We hugged for a long minute.  And then I started crying, telling him how scared I had been.

And then…..

I started fussing.  One more fit.  I named the rules he had broken–one, leaving the house without asking, two, riding his bike up the street without asking, and three, going in someone else’s yard where he would be out of eyesight from ours.  Our rule is if you can’t see our house, I can’t see you–so only go where you can.

He listened and tears crept into his eyes.  I was rational but I laid it out for him–how scared I’d been, how disobedient he’d been, how I was thankful, and that he was OH SO VERY MUCH FOR A LONG, LONG TIME grounded.  I didn’t explain it in exactly a calm voice either.  And I might have been loud.

I hugged him one more time, and then I sat him down in front of his lessons as he wondered aloud what exactly being grounded looked like.  He was contrite but curious.

I walked away.

"Return of the Prodigal Son, 1914. CHristian Rohlfs" by Creator:Christian Rohlf - http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=71448. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son,_1914._CHristian_Rohlfs.jpg#/media/File:Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son,_1914._CHristian_Rohlfs.jpg

“Return of the Prodigal Son, 1914. CHristian Rohlfs” by Creator:Christian Rohlf – http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=71448. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son,_1914._CHristian_Rohlfs.jpg#/media/File:Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son,_1914._CHristian_Rohlfs.jpg

Later this evening I thought about the Prodigal Son story found in the Good Book.  The one where a man has two sons, and one chooses to take his inheritance early and goes off and squanders it, and then winds up working feeding pigs for a farmer.  He finally decides to swallow his pride and go back home and ask his father to take him on as a hired servant.  As he heads towards home, his father sees him, and goes running to greet him.  The father plans a big ol’ hootenanny to welcome him home, which doesn’t exactly sit well with the son who has stayed home and spent all this time doing his father’s bidding.  I get it, and that’s a story for another night–but what made me go back and reread it tonight is I was wondering if the father had advance notice the son was coming home.  That he was alive–and okay.

I read it over three times.  I don’t think he did.

So there the father was–all this time gone by where he’d likely heard about the partying and then nothing.  He didn’t know if his son was dead or alive or what, and then one day the son comes home.

And the father greets him.  With open arms.  He ran to his son.

And I just have one question, one little thought rattling around in my mind–

After you hugged your son, so thankful and relieved that he was alive and in front of you and seemingly okay, did you then take a moment to impress upon him all the worrying you had done in all that time and how irresponsible and inconsiderate he had been not to at least communicate better with you, because after all you are his father and you love him, but there are rules and stuff as to how to be kind and respectful to those you love?  

Did you?  

Did you ground him?  

I can understand what that hug was like for you–you had this lost child in your arms.  You could touch him, breathe him in, hold him in your arms.  But can you identify with my frustrations and anger and pain and fear that followed the hug?  

I mean, I think it would have been okay to do all that and then move on to the feast.  It seemed to flow that way around here.  After the dust settled, I made them a pot of “sort of from scratch” chicken noodle soup, and it was good and comforting and just what we all needed after the emotional upheaval of the afternoon.  I even served the pears my Prodigal asked for.

But his sister sure got some too.  Because I appreciate that she hung around like she was supposed to.

Tonight I’m thankful that my children are tucked in bed safe and sound, and that none of the horrible things going through my head about 5:30 this afternoon came to fruition.  I give thanks for the “intervention” in my heart that had me hug my son with gratitude before letting him know exactly where he had gone wrong.  I don’t know if I was right or wrong in raising my voice and calling him out, but what’s done is done now.  I just know that this world we live in can be a scary place, and I walk a fine line between not wanting to scare my children and trying to impress upon them the importance of being smart and staying safe.

And to think I was excited when Cooter learned to ride his bike.

May we all have someone happy to see us when we return back to where we came from, running to us with open arms that wrap us up in love–and may we recognize that sometimes the heart behind the fussing and correcting really, really does love us.

Love to all.

The Word I Didn’t Want Him To Say, and Why He Said It

I got Cooter a book on engineers.  It’s a massive book, more detailed and much thicker than I thought it would be.  If his interest in engineering continues, it will grow with him.

http://www.amazon.com/Engineers-DK-Publishing/dp/1465435972/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442285805&sr=8-1&keywords=DK+engineers

Which makes me very happy–I love getting my money’s worth.  So far, with him, we’ve only really gotten our money’s worth on the Star Wars and Harry Potter Lego character books.  He looks and reads through those almost daily.

We were having a lovely afternoon, sitting on the back porch with the windows open, soaking in the calmness of a day that teased us with the promise of fall’s impending arrival.  The sun, the clouds, the bluest sky, the trees still full of their green leaves.  The crew had spent much of the day reading.  Our Princess had picked up our recently acquired copy of Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White–one of my favorites from early on.  She was delighted and amazed at the turn of events in the first few chapters.  Her recounting of it had Cooter laughing, and I’m pretty sure I might find myself in a quandary when he finds a way to sneak her copy and read it.  Because really, those are two things that boy lives for–making his sister crazy with his sneaky ways…..and reading.

As we were enjoying the quiet of the afternoon and the unscheduled afternoon hours we had, Cooter piped up with a question, “Mama, what do you think is the dumbest invention ever made?”  I frowned. He knows I do NOT like that word.  At all.  I started to correct him, and he looked at me in all sincerity, “Mama, I don’t think there is another word that means the same thing as dumb, is there? Really?”

And in that moment, my brain froze and I couldn’t come up with a single one.  Not really.

He took my silence as permission to continue.  “So Mama, which one?”

I shook my head, maybe in the hopes of clearing the fog.  “I don’t know.  I heard the other day about a thing that you press on a banana and it cuts it into banana slices.  That’s pretty silly.  I mean, who can’t take a knife and cut a banana into slices pretty quickly?”

He stared at me.

“Really?  Ummm, what about children?” He looked at me with a stern and indignant expression.   “That way they don’t cut themselves?”

Oh yeah.  Right.  “Okay, well, I don’t know then.”

“Well, I do.  There was a guy a long time ago who put some rockets underneath a chair and then he sat down and told them to light the rockets and he tried to make the first…..rocket…..ship!”  By the last few words, he could hardly get them out, he was laughing so hard.  “I mean,” he breathed heavily, “who would do that?  Put themselves on a chair like that? With rockets? See, Mama, that’s just dumb.”

I still don’t like the word, y’all.  But yeah, I get his point.  For now, we’re compromising as long as he only calls actions and not people THAT.

He later read to me in great detail about this thing that happened in 1500 A.D.  This guy in China did the first recorded experiment in “manned rocketry.”  He was a Chinese government official, who attached 47 rockets to this chair.  Cooter delighted in informing that after all were lit and he took off, he nor the chair were ever seen again.  Cooter found this quite hilarious.

Anybody wanna bet the guy’s last words were, “Hey, y’all, watch this!”?

Ahem.

Some days I really, really love homeschooling.  I enjoy wacky conversations like these that are nowhere in the plans that lead us to even greater talks, like how words can hurt people, and we need to choose them wisely.  Be smart.  Like what that guy five hundred years should have been.  But no.  (Trust Cooter to find the wackiest story in a 360 page book almost as soon as he got it.)

I’m thankful for the quiet and for the laughter that fills it.  Both are good.  As are the interesting stories I hear from the things they’ve read.  Today had all of the best things–from E. B. White to engineers. From swans who can’t honk to rocketeers.

All the really good stuff.

And for a Monday, that will do just fine.

Love to all.

If It’s Broke ‘Round Here…..

I was puttering around in Cooter’s room with only the intention of being able to vacuum his floor.

I wound up doing so much more.  It turned out to be a pretty momentous project, as we packed up quite a bit of his “baby stuff,” as he called it.  He didn’t want me to get rid of all of it–some we are storing away for “whenever.”  But the fact that he was ready was a big deal.  A Very. Big. Deal.

He’s my baby, you see.

But he’s also 8 and a half. And he’s put up with some things (like the so very precious itty bitty baby pictures on his wall) for far too long.

At one point a couple of years ago we put horses that I collected growing up (some, not all, were the Breyer horses that were quite the thing with me and my best friend) on the shelves in his room.  I asked him, considering he has a few Star Wars things he might like to display, if he’d like for me to put the horses away for now.

After hemming and hawing and me reassuring him all would be okay and my feelings would not be hurt, he said yes, he was ready to change things.

I pulled out the box with my Daddy’s name and mailing address on it–the one he and Mama first packed my horses up in, wrapping them gently in old t-shirts and dust rags.  And I, just as they once did though probably not as well, carefully wrapped each little horse and tucked it away, only after looking and remembering the Christmas or birthday I got each one and the names I’d given them.

The last two I packed up were the ones on the very top shelf.  The ones I’ve had the longest.

IMG_9530

I don’t remember how old I was when I got them, but I think maybe five?  Actually the big one (which has wheels on her feet) was mine.  The other one was Sister’s, but it turns out birds were more her thing.  We got them one Christmas.  My horse came with a wagon and we had a driver and rider dolls.  They had “real” bridles and saddles too.

Then came the time that each had a tail to break off.  Daddy used some kind of substance to stick my horse’s tail back on.  I’m not sure what happened to Sister’s horse, but Daddy went another route in fixing her tail.  Frayed twine of sorts.

And here it is, all these many, many years later and that tail is still on.

My horse’s tail did not fare as well, but it’s still with me.  Wrapped up in a bit of one of Daddy’s old t-shirts, waiting for me to try to figure out how Daddy fixed it the first time and make that happen myself.

That’s the thing I learned from my parents that tends to stand out the most, I guess.

To be a good steward.

Take care of what we have.

And those we have.

And if it’s broken–

we fix it.

Sometimes we have to get creative, think outside of the box, or have a whole lot of patience as we wait for paint or glue to dry, but before we throw it away, we try to fix it.

Tonight I’m thankful for remembering and breathing in my Mama and Daddy’s presence as I worked to pack the horses away.  I wonder if, as they were packing up my things, their hearts hurt as much as mine did as I packed up Cooter’s.  It’s bittersweet really–sad that the years are passing so quickly, but filled with joy that he is growing and learning and figuring out who he is becoming.  That’s an amazing thing to have front row seats to for sure.    Most of all, I’m thankful for the lessons my parents taught me about taking care of all we see and know and love.  About not throwing things–or relationships–away just because there’s something broken in them.

May we all find a way to fix something that’s broken.  Because we at least have to try, don’t we?

Love to all.

The World Is Breaking Her Heart

Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

                                 Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

Today on this, Women’s Equality Day, the 95th anniversary of when women were given the right to vote in 1920, the following conversation happened.

I took Miss Sophie out for her evening constitutional, and the littles were riding their bikes up and down the street.  Our Princess came over on her bike and stopped where I stood with Miss Sophie, allowing her to do all the sniffs and whatnots.

“Mama, how come some people will say, when someone is screaming, ‘You scream like a girl!’ I mean, why is it an insult to do something like us?  I don’t get it.”

Oh my heart.  The tone in her voice.  She really doesn’t understand.  Just like she didn’t understand when she read about the Ku Klux Klan the other day.  It is breaking her heart, this broken world of ours.  At age almost 11, she is struggling with all that does not fit in her world of happiness, fairies, dolls, and really great books.  After all, I think she’s still sort of waiting on her letter from Hogwart’s.

And it hit me the irony that on this day, 95 years after women were given “equal” rights, I’m having to explain why doing something like a woman–running, hitting, throwing, screaming–is considered a BAD thing.

I told her the truth as I know it.  People don’t understand what is different.  They sometimes feel threatened so they use put-downs and insults and other hurtful things to keep those who are different away.

And I don’t know.  Basically, in the end, I told her we could guess and try to figure it out, but bottom line–I don’t get it.  I don’t understand.  She continued, talking about the line drawn between the boys and the girls on the street and how her brother likes to put her down because she’s a girl.

“Do you think you can talk to him?”

We talked about it, about how her Daddy sees women as his equals, and how her brother was probably just trying to show off in front of his buddies.

“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to get that folder that said ‘Girls Rule, Boys Drool’ today.”

Ummmm, no.  Just no.

Sigh.

I explained to her why THAT wasn’t cool either, really.  If we want to be equal, we need to respect the other gender the way we want to be respected.

We have come a long way in 95 years in many respects.  But the fact that a child 95 years later has heard the same put-downs and insults that have been heard for years–that we haven’t already put a stop to such as this–really hurts my heart.  That my daughter is struggling with this now and still, all these many years later, breaks it.

Tonight I’m hopeful that when we have the centennial celebration of women’s right to vote, we will be standing side by side–men and women, girls and boys–with respect and admiration for each other.  The only way for that to happen is to start now–teaching our boys and girls, daughters and sons, a language and regard filled with respect for the other person.  Comments like “You scream like a little girl” might seem funny at first glance, but really they are hurting the souls of our children–the future of our world.

May we all one day sleep the sleep that comes with peace and respect and harmony. I wish, as I tuck my two in, that it were tonight.

Love to all.