Wednesday, June 29, 2011

RemembeRED: An Old World Saint in the New World

            This is a late posting for the RemembeRED prompt from the Red Dress Club. This week’s assignment was to write about a class trip, so it’s only appropriate that this be a day late like most of my college assignments. I very rarely write about religion, so there are new waters for me to dive into.
An Old World Saint in a New World
            I was trying to follow along at Saturday afternoon mass as my children squirmed in the pew beside me. I have been told by a number of my fellow parishioners that my boys are well behaved during mass. It’s kind of them to lie like that. By the end, my patience is gone and I don’t always catch what Father Larry or Father Jim has to say during the announcements. But this week there was an announcement that got my attention. 
“I have very exciting news,” said Father Larry. “Blessed Brother André Bissette of the Order of The Holy Cross will be canonized in October.” He went on to tell the parishioners about Brother André.
            I’m not the strictest Catholic in the world, but saints are one of the things I like best about my faith. The idea that someone Up There can run interference for us with the Man in charge appeals to me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we need to have that go-between. When I talk to God, I address my remarks directly to Him. But it’s nice to have an otherworldly advocate who has your back. And Brother André (now Saint André) and I go way back.
            In my senior year, my college choir took a trip to Montreal to sing in two basilicas. My roommates and I drove my little black Honda Prelude from Poughkeepsie to Canada with the sunroof open as we sang The Indigo Girls songs at the top of our lungs. There wasn’t enough room in the bus for the entire choir, so the director allowed us to take my car.
            We danced in nightclubs, found out that beer was cheaper than Diet Coke, discovered we didn’t like French food, got lost in a sketchy part of town, and serenaded some hockey players in the hotel elevator (they didn’t believe we were singers and we felt obliged to prove it). And of course, we sang with the choir. We sang pieces by Handel and Fauré at masses at St. Patrick’s Basilica and St. Joseph’s Oratory.
St. Joseph’s began as a humble wooden chapel built by Brother Andre who raised the money by offering students inexpensive haircuts. Today it is a grand copper-domed building—the third largest of its kind in the world. I was awed by the piles of crutches and canes left behind by those whose cures are attributed to Brother Andre’s miracles. I knew shrines like this existed, but I never expected to see one so close to home. There were places to pray for St. Joseph’s intervention for various things. I paused to light a candle at a sign that read St. Joseph patron des mourants (patron of the dying) for a friend with cancer.
We continued on to the choir loft of the Crypt church—smaller than the main chapel it seats an impressive 1,000 people. After we sang we began to look for the exit. A kindly security guard spotted us, conspicuous in our purple iridescent taffeta choir gowns (think of the ugliest bridesmaid dress you’ve ever seen and add a little more ugly and a little less flattering). “Would you ladies like to see Brother André’s heart?” he asked us.
“Sure,” we said. We really wanted to get back to the hotel, take off our gowns and find some more cheap beer, but he seemed so enthusiastic. I assumed the guard was speaking metaphorically. Perhaps we’d see an exhibit about Brother André’s miracles. The guard showed us a glass box behind a metal grate with the letters RIP sculpted on the top.  Inside was a human heart—Brother André’s heart preserved as a relic. We didn’t really know what to say as the guard looked at us expectantly. I think one of us mumbled, “Thanks for showing us this.” He asked us to sign a petition for Brother André’s canonization.
I thought about that signature when Fr. Larry told us Brother André had become a saint. I reflected on having a great time with great friends and singing beautiful music. My life had changed so much. No longer a student and now a wife and mother. I am in touch with my roommates through the miracle of Facebook. When I got home that afternoon I opened my laptop and wrote them a message, “Do you remember Brother André…”

Monday, June 27, 2011

High Five!

            Last week I wrote a post about reading the ER report about an injury my son James sustained when he was eleven months old. I had picked up the report in preparation of an appointment we made with specialist to look at his hand. This past Friday James and I ventured into Boston for our appointment at Children’s Hospital to see if anything could be done to correct the damage that was done to his fifth finger.
            First of all, you may have heard of Children’s Hospital—people come from all over the world to be treated there. Believe the hype. Everyone we spoke to—from the lady who sold us breakfast, to the parking garage cashier, to the two physicians, to the x-ray technician, was kind, friendly, patient and professional. Most importantly, they’re all used to working with kids. If James asked a question, he was treated with as much respect as any adult. 

X-ray from Wikepedia. Posted by Jason Hickey
            I thought the ER doctors had missed something when he was seen back in 2005. James’ fifth finger is very crooked. I always assumed it was a break that didn’t heal properly. It turns out that wasn’t quite the case. Look at the x-ray (it's not James' x-ray). See those little bones in between the three main finger bones (or phalanges)? Those are called growth plates. In a child of 11 months those plates are made of cartilage so they don’t show up on an x-ray. Apparently, James’s growth plate was pushed out from between his phalanges. Since the growth plate is still connected to nerve endings and blood vessels it has continued to grow and formed into bone. That’s why his finger appears to be crooked. Instead of being between two of his phalanges, it’s off to the side. Fortunately, since he was so young the finger has compensated for the displaced growth plate and the joint functions pretty well without it. 

            The doctor recommended day surgery to remove the growth plate. James will wear a cast for a couple of weeks and have physical therapy afterward. We can have it done before school starts in the fall. I’m very relieved. I was sure his finger would need to be broken, re-set, and in a cast for six weeks of so. Once in a while, I LOVE being wrong.
            I’ve been parenting these little boys for nine years now and I know being in a cast for the last two weeks of summer is going to be brutal. But at least he’ll be ready for school in the fall. Besides, James thinks it’s really “cool” to be wearing a cast. He and Owen have already discussed what Owen can draw on it. Boys!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Red Writing Hood: The Letter

      This week's assignment from the Red Dress Club was to write a piece of "flash fiction"--300 words or less using the word LIFE for inspiration. I'm revisiting the story of Michaela, a young widow I've been writing about. You can read previous pieces by clicking on the page above marked The Story of Michaela.

 The Letter

 Michaela tossed the bills on the desk, dropped the junk mail in the recycling bin, and opened the last piece of mail. It was a handwritten letter on inexpensive stationary with a return address she didn’t recognize. A baby picture fell out when she opened the envelope.

Dear Mrs. Russell,

            I was sad to hear about Mr. Russell’s passing last year. I wanted to write back then but I didn’t know what to say. He was the best teacher I ever had. Most teachers passed me along from one grade to the next—whether I deserved it or not. I was one of those kids who always did just enough to get by. My parents worked two jobs so they were too busy and tired to make sure I was doing my work.
            Mr. Russell was different. He wouldn’t accept second-rate work. He knew I could do better. He made me believe if I worked harder I could make something of myself. I was a c-minus student as a freshman. By senior year I had a b-plus average. That wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Russell pushing me.
            Three years ago I earned my teaching license and a classroom of my own. Once in a while I hear Mr. Russell’s words coming out of my mouth and I know I’m doing something right.
Last week my wife and I had our first child. I thought about giving him the middle name Peter. But it just didn’t sound right since your husband was always Mr. Russell to me. We named our son Joseph Russell Alves. I hope you don’t mind.

Joe Alves


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Tech Support

The boys have discovered that our friends have MUCH cooler gadgets than my husband and I have. They've been conspiring to figure out how long it will take to save up for an IPad, IPhone or IPod Touch with their allowances... all to feed their new need to play Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. Sorry kids, you aren't getting one before Mommy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

RemembeRED: Twelve

            My son James injured his hand when he was eleven months old. Two of his fingers were crushed when the small table he used to pull himself up, fell down on him. We were fortunate that a plastic surgeon was on call at the time and stitched up his ring finger. His fifth finger was also injured but wasn’t given much attention because the ring finger was so severely lacerated.
These days however, that fifth finger is giving him some trouble. Writing is difficult for him and he is self-conscious of the way the finger looks. During a fever dream this winter, he screamed and cried while trying desperately to “fix” his fingers in his sleep. The next morning I asked his pediatrician to recommend an orthopedic surgeon to look at his hand.
This Friday we have an appointment at Boston Children’s Hospital. In preparation for that visit, I picked up the records of his original ER visit from our local hospital. I made the mistake of reading the report in the parking lot of the hospital. So many details of that day are crystal clear in my mind, but that clinical report written in black and white chilled me. As scary as the whole experience was at the time, I don’t think I realized just how serious his injury was until today. I didn’t really understand why they didn’t pay any attention to the lesser injury. Until I read the report, I had never heard the term “partial amputation” used in regard to my son.
I didn’t watch the doctor stitch (I had passed out while watching my husband’s hand being stitched in the ER a few years before and I didn’t want to repeat the incident). I focused on trying to console James, as he lay restrained and screaming. I rubbed his arm and shoulder and whispered, “It’s going to be okay.” His eyes kept rolling back into his head and I thought he would pass out. There were moments I prayed he would. The surgeon was unfazed and just kept working. It took twelve stitches to repair James’ finger. Today was the first time I realized how many stitches went into my baby’s tiny hand.

This post is a response to the RemembeRED promt from The Red Dress Club which asked us to fill in the blanks: “The first time I ____________ -ed after  _____________-ing.” I loved the idea of this prompt and I really wanted to write something funny. I searched my brain to think of something to write about and came up with nothing. Then today, I found myself crying in the parking lot of the hospital thinking about James’ hand. It isn’t funny and it’s rushed, but it’s from the heart.
This was taken a couple of weeks after the accident.
I keep a copy in my wallet to make me laugh when I need it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

WWDD? (What Would Dad Do?)

I wrote this essay about my dad for a writing class I took the year before I started this blog. Father’s Day seemed an appropriate time to post it.
When I was five years old my father was laid off from his job as a machinist at a research and design firm that made parts for NASA. Some of his handiwork went into space with the Mercury missions. Sadly, the economy of the mid-seventies made space exploration pretty low-priority to the general public. As an adult I can only imagine how challenging it must have been to feed, clothe and shelter my three siblings and myself on only my mother’s Home-Ec teacher’s salary. As a child though, I was not aware that my family was struggling to pay bills. I had no idea how devastating losing a job you love is. I was only aware that I got to spend more time with Daddy,
            My father went back to school to get his Bachelors degree in vocational education. He would eventually train high school students to become machinists. Dad is a natural-born teacher. He is one of those men happy to explain the way something works without ever talking down to you. He is endlessly patient for those who don’t understand right away. Dad understands that people have different ways of learning and the same explanation won’t work for everyone.
            I was the youngest of four children and just learning to read and write when Dad went back to school. He was studying the way children learn and I was a living example of his coursework. We made a great pair. That year, I spent more time with Dad than with Mom. While most men of his generation spent time with their children on weekends and in the hours between dinner and bedtime, my father was in the thick of it. I’ll never forget the days that my dad would let me play hooky from school. Something as simple as a shared bag of contraband potato chips and a few games of checkers are magical to a child.
            When I am at my best as a parent, I am doing things that he would have done: building a sandcastle, reading a favorite story for the hundredth time, or letting my kids help with a project even though I know it will take longer. He knew that learning wasn’t just for the classroom. It happens in the small moments of childhood—chasing butterflies, collecting rocks, making a mess.
            One day last summer my five-year-old son James came into the house after helping my husband in the garden. He seemed to be speaking to someone on the porch.
            “What are you doing James?” I asked.
            “Nuffing,” he quickly replied as he hid something behind his back.
            “James? What do you have?”
            “It’s a rolly polly”
            “Honey, you really shouldn’t bring bugs into the house.” I reminded him.
            “But he’s my pet!”

            A part of me wanted to order him to take the bug outside. Instead I said, “Okay, how about this? I’ll get you a container to keep him in for a little while. But he goes back outside at dinner time.”
            “Okay!” He agreed with a gap-toothed grin on his face. “Mommy, what do rolly pollies eat?”
            “I don’t know James. Probably something in the garden.”
            “We have to find out. I think he’s hungry.”
I checked my watch. There was a little time before I had to pick up my other son from his play-date. “Want to go to the library?” I asked. “Maybe they have a book that will tell us what they eat.”
James rewarded me with his luminous grin and soon we found ourselves in the bug section of the children’s room of our local library. It turns out rolly pollies, also known as pill bugs, are not insects but isopods and they eat decaying plant matter. We fed our guest a handful from the compost bin and released him after dinner as we agreed.
            Life moves so fast for us with work and school and sports and church that I never consciously think, “What would Dad do?” But in those moments when I am paying more attention to the children than I am to the piles of laundry and unpaid bills, when I am listening to their stories and playing their games and learning along side them that I am doing what my father would do and I know I’m doing something right.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Books Books Books

            This morning I noticed that the backing to the bookcase in my children’s bedroom had separated from the case itself. Books had begun to slide between the shelves and the back. So I took out my trusty tool kit and proceeded to empty the bookcase and reinforce the backing. The boys’ school is having a book swap this week so I figured this would be the perfect time to weed out a few volumes we never look at anymore. Big mistake. Not because I did a bad job of it. I can be pretty handy with a hammer when I need to be. No, my mistake was thinking I could clean out the bookcase without stopping time and again to pour over so many wonderful books.
            We read to our kids every night. They’re into some pretty substantial chapter books right now. Owen is in the middle of the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini and James is on book three of the Harry Potter series (we’ll probably take a break from it because the series is about to get a little too dark for my little guy). While I was cleaning out the book case I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I read Goodnight Moon or Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?.
            I’ll admit I’m not the perfect mom when it comes to playing with my kids. Yes, I’ve played my share of Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Monopoly Junior. But I usually wished I was doing something else. Games aren’t my thing. I love it when the kids ask me to take out art supplies and get crafty. But by far my favorite thing to do with my boys is to read aloud to them. There have been rainy days when I read until I was hoarse. But not lately.
            These days, they can read picture books to themselves. I can hear them at night, getting out of bed to bring book after book into their beds. Occasionally I have to go upstairs and remind them it’s getting late and they need to be up early for school the next day. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I can’t sleep without spending a good chunk of time with a book myself. My husband sometimes has to remind me that it’s getting late so I’ll grudgingly finish the page I’m on and turn out the light.
Maybe it’s normal that the end of the school year is making me sentimental. Everywhere I turn there are signs that my little boys are growing up.  I love that they’re gaining a little independence and I am absolutely thrilled that they love to read on their own. But going through that bookcase made me sentimental for hours we spent reading together. These are some of the books I’m going to miss the most.

Virginia Lee Burton wrote Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel in 1939. Who would think that a tale about a steam powered machine would still be capturing the attention of children in the 21st century.  My boys couldn’t get enough of it. Talk about a classic!

Dinosaur and Ship Ahoy! by Peter Sis were read so many times I had to buy new copies. Sis uses simple, brightly colored illustrations and only a few words of text so we could tell the story our way. Sometimes I could even get the boys to “read” these ones to me.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin and it's many "sister" books.

The original was so… well… original and the subsequent stories seem formulaic to an adult, but kids gobble them up like a mouse with a cookie.

Yes, Margaret Brown's Goodnight Moon is the classic that we’ve all memorized but The Run Away Bunny is the perfect book to read while snuggling up with your little bunny.

First of all, Owen’s Marshmallow Chick by Christopher Henkes is about a boy (okay, a mouse) named Owen who has a special relationship with his blanket. For that reason alone we'd read it in this house. Secondly, it’s just plain adorable as Owen gobbles up everything in his Easter basket except for his marshmallow chick which earns a special place in Owen's heart. I suppose it’s an Easter time story but it got year round attention from us. We didn’t have as much luck with Henkes’ original story Owen. You can read about that experience here.

            The Curious George books by Margaret and H.A. Rey are brilliant and my little boy James (who is often called Monkey by his mother) loves and relates to George. I bet a lot of other kids do too. This is another character who has been around for ages but never goes out of style.

            You just have to read The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems for yourself—preferably out loud using silly voices. Mo Willems is a writer for Sesame Street. The man knows what kids like. There are a few Pigeon books and this one is my favorite.

Gerald McDermott writes and illustrates books based on folktales from all over the world. The Arrow to the Sun was Owen’s favorite for years. It is a Pueblo Indian Tale about a boy who discovers he is the son of a god. He goes on a quest to prove himself to his father and brings joy to the people of earth. By the time Owen was in kindergarten, he could recite every word. We also love McDermott’s Anansi the Spider and Zomo the Rabbit.

            So if you see me out and about this summer and I look a little blue, ask me to read Fox in Sox to your toddler. It will make both our days. What are your kids’ favorite books? If they’ve started reading, what are they reading this summer?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Rockin' the Bump

             Today I’m linking up with Shell over at Things I Can’t Say for Rockin’ the Bump. I had intended this to be a Wordless Wednesday post, but I couldn’t resist a little commentary.

This is me 42 weeks pregnant with Owen the morning of my cousin’s wedding. Yup, 42 weeks pregnant. I hadn’t planned on going to the wedding. I thought I’d have a newborn baby and didn’t think I could manage a wedding that soon. I had an ultra sound and a non-stress test earlier that weekend to make sure everything was fine. My obstetrician said something like, “The baby’s fine. But we think he’s over ten pounds. I think he hasn’t dropped because he won’t fit. You might want to consider a c-section.” I said, “Over ten pounds? Sign me up!”
The only time I've ever worn flip flops to a wedding.

Two days later I was holding this guy. He wasn’t over ten pounds, only nine and a half. But his head was in the 95 percentile. I can’t express how grateful I am to live in a time when surgical births are routine.

This is Owen’s birthday two years later I had this baby bump. It’s the only picture I could find of myself pregnant with James. There are however, thousands of pictures of Owen during this time. I must have always been the one holding the camera. I had a second c-section because I had never heard of a second baby being smaller than the first.

Two weeks later James joined our little family. He weighed seven pounds, seven ounces. I bet I could have handled that!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

RemembeRED: Our Morning Goodbye

           This week's RemembeRED prompt from The Red Dress Club was to write about affection. 

Our Morning Goodbye
            It’s a hot September morning. The boys grumble because I’ve forced them to wear “church clothes” to school. They’d much rather be in tee shirts emblazoned with Sponge Bob or Star Wars characters and athletic shorts. It’s the first day of school—only one of two days that I insist the boys wear a shirt with a collar and khaki shorts or pants. The other day is school picture day. I’m sure they’ll grumble when that day comes too.
            I take a snap shot before the boys leave for school and we head up the hill to the bus stop. They race ahead of me, their green and blue L.L. Bean backpacks bouncing along. We arrive with a few other neighborhood families. The moms ask each other about their summers and try to keep the kids from getting grass stains on their new clothes. The kids play and compare their new sneakers.
            The yellow bus comes around the corner. “Here comes the bus,” I call to my boys who have wondered off to investigate the ants on the sidewalk. James jumps up, runs and plants a kiss on my cheek so quickly I can barely feel it and races to the front of the line to board the bus. Owen goes more slowly. He gives me a hug, we kiss each other’s cheeks and he climbs the steps of the bus. He turns towards me and waves. I blow him a kiss. He catches it and puts his hand over his heart then blows one to me. I catch the kiss and place it on my heart.

            We perform this goodbye ritual every day at the bus stop (and again at bedtime). The bus can’t leave until it’s complete. There are days when I am in a hurry or feeling stressed and I can’t help but feel impatient for him to just give me a peck on the cheek and hurry on his way. But I know these days are numbered. Plenty of kids younger than him walk away from their parents without a backward glance. Next Thursday is the last day of third grade for Owen.  How long will my sweet boy take the time to give me a multilayered goodbye? On my better days I remember that our morning farewell is a blessing.

Yesterday morning I had to hurry home to meet an appliance repairman at the house. I was nervous that he would arrive before I returned from the bus stop.
“I’m going to start walking back home as soon as the bus stops.” I tell my boys.
“You aren’t even going to say goodbye?” Owen asks me.
“Of course I’m going to say goodbye. I’ll just have to make it a quick goodbye.”
“We better do it now then,” he insists. He hugs me, kisses me and blows me a kiss. I catch it and place it over my heart.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Tale of the Lazy Blogger

            I have been a neglectful blog writer and reader lately. I’m not alone. At least three of the bloggers I read regularly have written posts apologizing for being absent lately. Like all of them, I’ve had my share of distractions. But when I consider how busy I was over the wintertime and into the early spring, I’m no busier than I was before.
            So what is eating my time? Sure, I’ve had dental work, kitchen appliance drama, baseball games and end of school year activities thrown into my schedule for the last few weeks. But all in all I’m no busier than I normally am. I am no thinner—so it can’t be that I’ve been spending a lot of time at the gym or running. I don’t have a tan so I couldn’t have been lounging around in the sun or doing work in the garden. I’m feeling no less stressed so I haven’t been investing my time in yoga and meditation.
            Perhaps there is something in the summer air that sucks the motivation to sit in our writing spaces and get the job done. Maybe time speeds up when the school year winds down. Or maybe I’ve slowed down a bit since the temperature has begun to rise. Whatever the reason dear readers, I will endeavor to get back in the writing mode this week. Tomorrow’s memoir topic from The Red Dress Club is affection—a topic I’ve learned so much about since my children were born. I have no excuse not to write about that! Heaven knows I’ll have the time this morning as I wait for the refrigerator repairman to arrive. Have a good week everyone!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Hawaiian Day

School ends two weeks from tomorrow and there seems to be a theme or a fun activity for every remaining day. Today is Hawaiian Day. I couldn't find Hawaiian shirts for both boys--plaid seems to be in fashion this year. So I found these swim trunk and tee shirt sets at Walmart for $10. They also came with matching flip flops, which we'll be saving for the beach.

Ready to hit the beach... or the classroom on Hawaiian Day.
I have a deal with my boys. If they let me take a couple of nice shots, they can be as silly as they want to in the next picture.

My kids being themselves.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

TAG, You're It!

            As a parent, I’m used to making my kids do things they don’t want to do for their own health and well being. I’m no stranger to saying, “No vegetables, no dessert.” I’ve held screaming children while they got vaccinations because I know that a few seconds of pain outweighs the possibility of contracting tetanus or measles or hepatitis. I don’t allow them to play with broken glass or rusty nails and running into traffic is simply off limits.
            Right now, it’s 2:00 am and I can sleep because I find myself wanting to make my son Owen do something he is reluctant to do. This time however, if he chooses not to do it, there will be no dire consequences. He’s been invited to join a Talented and Gifted program (or TAG) beginning next year in fourth grade. I am really excited for him—I had been a part of the program thirty years ago and loved it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a much better fit for me than where I had been.
When he brought home the invitation letter he told me he didn’t want to go. “All of my friends aren’t going,” he said.
            “Are any of your friends going?” I asked. I would be surprised if none were going, most of his friends seem pretty bright.
            “Well, Nathan and Randall* are going,” he admitted.
“Aren’t they two of your closest friends?”
“Yeah, but Evan and Josh aren’t going.”
            “Isn’t Evan the one at Cub Scouts who drives you nuts?”
            “Listen Owen, there’s a meeting in a couple of weeks to learn more about the program. Let’s make an informed decision. I’m not going to force you into anything.”

            That meeting was tonight. The program sounds like one in which Owen would really flourish. The students learn at an accelerated pace so there is time for projects that you don’t find in a traditional classroom. The teachers and students go more in depth into the subject matter—more exploring and less “teaching to the test”. In addition, I saw a number of familiar faces. Even though this is a city of over 100,000, it can be a very small town. I saw parents I knew from the Y and some other parents I knew from Little League. So even though Owen wouldn’t be with all of his friends, he would have some friends and the potential to make a lot more.
            I was very gung-ho when I got home from the meeting. I probably should have waited until morning to talk to him about it. But I jumped right in while he was getting ready for bed.
“You know, I think you ought to give this a shot,” I told him.
            “But I’m scared,” he said as the tears filled up his eyes.
            “Of course you are. It’s scary to try new things. But if you don’t like it, you can go back to your neighborhood school.”
            “Really. You know, they do a lot of really cool things.”
            “Like what?”
            “They have a science fair in fourth and fifth grade.”
            “But I wouldn’t know what to do!”
            “It’s at the end of the year, after you’ve learned more about science than you already know.”
            “What else?”
            “Last year the students who were learning about the Revolutionary War created a board game based on what they learned.”
            His eyes lit up, “A war game? With spies?”
            “Probably,” I said. “There were a lot of spies during the Revolutionary War.”
            “Well… maybe I’ll give it a try. Just for fourth grade.”

            So now, I have him onboard to give it a try and I can’t sleep. This isn’t the cut and dried parenting decision I’m used to. What if I’ve talked him into it and he hates it? He’ll be absolutely fine if he doesn’t go. But I can’t help but feel like he’ll be so much better than fine if he goes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

RDC: What Adam Wants

            This week’s assignment from The Red Dress Club was to write about what our character wants. I’m back to Michaela’s story (you can read previous pieces on the page above marked The Story of Michaela). This time I decided to write from the point of view of Michaela’s on again, off again boyfriend Adam. I thought it would be a challenge for me to write in men’s voices. I’m hoping it sounds genuine and not just what a women think men sound like when they’re sitting at a bar. Con crit is very welcome.

What Adam Wants

            “Hey Sully,” Adam said as took barstool next to his old friend.
            “Well, well, well,” answered Sully. “Haven’t seen you in a while. Where’s the girlfriend tonight?”
            “Shut up Sully.” He turned to the bartender. “Traci, can I get a Sam Adams?”
            “Bottle or draft?”
            “Draft. Thanks honey.”
            “So what’s up?” Sully asked again. “I don’t see you around for weeks and I can’t ask about the girlfriend.”
            “Shit Sully, I don’t even know if I have a girlfriend right now. I just want to have a couple of beers and watch the game. I can go watch it at home if you’re going to be an asshole.”
             “Alright, alright.”
            They sat in silence and stared at the TV for a few minutes.
            “Sorry dude,” said Adam.  “I just screwed up with Michaela and I don’t know how to fix it.”
            “What happened?”
            “I mowed her lawn and she got pissed off.”
            “That pissed her off? I gotta get her to talk to Sheila. That one never stops nagging. I swear her ‘honey do’ list is gonna kill me one of these days.”
            “Right? So I was cutting her neighbor Miriam’s grass. She’s one of my regular customers. So I just did Michaela’s at the same time. It only took me 20 minutes or so. I figured it was a nice little thing to do for her.”
            “I don’t get it. Why did that piss her off?”
“You know she’s a widow, right? She has thing about taking care of everything herself. She said it was thoughtful but she couldn’t let me do stuff like that for her. She said I was a professional and she didn’t want to take advantage of me. She tried to pay me for it.” Adam took a large drink from his beer. “So I got insulted and pissed off and she got pissed off right back at me. I get she wants to be independent, but guys do stuff for their girlfriends. Right?”
            “Let me ask you something,” Sully said. “What do you want from this girl?”
            “What do you mean?”
            “Do you want to settle down with her? Or is she just a little piece of ass for now?”
            “I don’t know. Well, that’s not true. She definitely isn’t just a piece of ass. There’s gotta to be an easier way to get laid than dating a widow with two little kids. We’re never alone.”
            “So if she’s so much trouble and you don’t just want to sleep with her, you must want a relationship with her.”
            “What’s your point?”
            “Does she know that?”
            “I don’t know man. I need to be careful. She’s a widow. I don’t want to freak her out.”
            “Maybe she doesn’t want to be treated like a widow. Maybe she just wants to be treated like a girlfriend.”
            “That’s why I mowed her lawn! To do something nice for my girlfriend.”
            “Maybe next time you should just send flowers.”
            “I’m not a send flowers kind of guy. I’m a landscaper. If I gave her flowers I’d plant her some roses or azaleas or something.”
            “So explain it to her like that. If you were the kind of guy who sends flowers, do you think she’d throw them in the trash?”
            “Then tell her that mowing the lawn is your version of a dozen roses.”
            “What’s going on Sully? I was expecting you to say ‘screw her’ and buy me a shot of JD. Where did the insight come from?”
            “You haven’t been around much lately, so I’ve been stuck home watching Dr. Phil with Sheila.”
            “Damn. Maybe I should buy you a shot.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

RemembeRed: Taking Center Stage

This week's memoir prompt from The Red Dress Club was to write about a graduation. It could be any graduation.

Taking Center Stage

We were twenty minutes early and the church basement was already standing room only. Mothers made sure the graduates had clean faces. Grandmothers were trying to keep younger siblings in their seats. Fathers checked to make sure the batteries in their cameras and camcorders were fully charged.
            “When it going to start?” Owen whined.
            “In about 20 minutes.” I told him.
            “Why did we have to get here so early?”
            “So we could get a place to sit. If we had come any later, there wouldn’t be any seats left. Be patient. James sat through your preschool graduation, not to mention more soccer games than I can count.”
            “I know,” he sulked.
Two years ago it was James who squirmed impatiently in the metal folding chair waiting for Owen to graduate from Children’s Ark Preschool. The school had been a part of our lives for three years. The first time I dropped Owen off, it took me twenty minutes to wrestle James back into his car seat. He was two years old then and it was the first time Owen was going somewhere without him. He didn’t want to leave the school’s brightly colored décor, sand table, play kitchen and indoor play structure. James wanted to stay and play with his big brother and all the other children.
            Our family fell in love with the small program that I stumbled upon while searching the internet for preschools. I had driven by the Lutheran church a thousand times and never noticed the small yellow and red sign that read Children’s Ark Preschool. I never knew that little gem was there. The boys and I visited the school and I had a very strong good feeling that this was the right school for us. It was nurturing without being stifling and stimulating without being overly structured. The children said grace at snack time, participated in a Christmas pageant, and had discussions about the gentle and loving nature of God.
Before graduation.
            The graduation ceremony was in two parts. In the first part the children performed songs about the seasons. Afterward, the children would put on their graduation caps and capes to receive their diplomas. While James’ group sang a song about summer, he kept his fingers in his mouth. To anyone who doesn’t know James, it looked like the nervous habit of a shy kid. But James has never been shy. He has always been happiest in the middle of a crowd of children. 
            “Why is he doing that?” I wondered until I remembered him showing me his wiggly tooth earlier in the day. I didn’t think much about it at the time. He was only four years old. I figured that wiggly tooth would wiggle in his head for a weeks.
            But moments later, he pulled the tooth out and stared at it. At first I was the only one who noticed the little boy center stage who had stopped singing. Everyone else of course, was watching their own children or grand children.
When the song ended he whispered to the director of the school, “Mrs. Rogers, I lost my tooth!” he held the baby tooth out to her.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the director announced. “We’ve lost a tooth!”
James showed off his new Jack-o-lantern grin and giggled madly. His transition from little kid to big kid began center stage to a standing ovation. 

After graduation.