This Place Right Here

The other night, Poppy was out there barking again.  Ever since the bear came sauntering through the neighborhood I’ve been nervous about at what exactly it is she’s barking. Usually it’s the groundhog eating my strawberries. And daisies. And Echinacea. And Parsley. And Black-Eyed Susans. The funny thing is, Poppy cornered that poor little groundhog against the fence the other day and didn’t know what to do next.

Anyway…  I went out to see what all the noise was about. Boy are the spiders active at night. I looked at the windows that really need cleaning. And the tree that just died this spring and needs to be brought down. Three of them, actually, need to be brought down. But in order to do that, our chainsaw needs to be fixed. And we still need to fix the water pipe that leads to the front hose. Honestly, there are so many projects around here…cracked tiles in the bathroom, and windows with popped seals and water stains on ceilings that could really use repainting.

I love this house in spite of all of it.

And also in spite of the fact that right now this house is a complete mess.

The matching sock I couldn’t find last night is on the coffee table (I don’t know why or how it got there). There are empty popcorn bowls and water bottles and three Rubik’s Cubes scattered around. The old man stuffed a box of basketball jerseys for summer league under the chair in the family room. The popcorn pot still sits on the stove from last night. There are legos and bottles of nailpolish on the island.  And Jellycat.  And four pool towels hanging on chairs and the stair posts.

The dishwasher is full of clean dishes that need to be put away.  The counters are full of clean pots and cutting boards and serving bowls. The sink is full of dirty dishes that didn’t fit in the dishwasher.

The mess will be cleaned up shortly.

And tomorrow morning I will probably be looking at a very similar scene.

In our first house everything was perfectly placed, everything clean and neat. No clutter. I looked around one day and realized what was wrong with that house. It looked sterile…not at all like a home. That was before the babies came. Sterile is no longer a word I would use to describe our environment.

I look around now, at this home we live in, and this is what a home feels like to me. Some days I really, really cannot stand the remains of the day, the messes all over the place, to be sure. But the things I see now — the popcorn bowls and pool towels, the jerseys and toys and nail polish and dishes — these are the things that remain after a day well spent.

Someone asked me the other night, half in jest, if we would be moving out to P’ville soon the way so many of our friends have.

No.

Nothing against P’ville, but I like this place right here.

flowers

This Place Right Here

June 10th

You’ve been gone longer than you were here.  That makes me awfully sad.

You were such a good thing in my life.

I knew when you pooped on the floor at Petsmart on our way home from picking you out that we had absolutely no idea what we were getting into with you.

Remember how you chewed up all my cookbooks? I still have them you know…I don’t use them much anymore but I can’t bear to part with them.

They remind me too much of you.

It’s true that we didn’t know what life would be like with a Labrador…with you… Nor did we know just how magnificent a dog you would turn out to be.

Coco Edited

My heart aches a little, sometimes a lot, every June 10.

Miss you old Pal. I always, always miss you.

Is there really a Rainbow Bridge?

June 10th

Deeply

Today you are eight years old.

Ella 8-2 NST

I can remember the terrific, terrifying thrill of knowing I was pregnant with you…the moment I knew.  For weeks after, I would lie in bed at night and listen to the life within me…you. I held my breath until I could hear the sounds…the rhythmic, rapid, whooshing of your tiny little heart.

You are a perfect little miracle.

And now eight entire years have gone by.  Sometimes I sit in my big yellow chair in the bedroom and watch you dress in the morning.  I am there mainly because you require reminding.  Usually, that is frustrating.  But every once in a while, I will just watch.  I just watch as you are enveloped in that other world you inhabit…the make-believe world filled with buttercups and dragonflies and sparkling sunshine. You are somewhere else entirely. If only I could go there with you just once…I believe it must be magical.

Ella 8-3 NST

I wonder, as I’m watching you in those few precious moments, how I am ever frustrated with you at all. Those little freckles and those little strawberry eyelashes.  Those eyes that laugh when you smile.  Your little voice, and your laugh.  Your hands, and how they feel in mine.

Even the way you throw your head back and whine…the way you stomp up the stairs when I ask you to do your chore or clean your room or brush your hair.  Yes, even those things make me smile.

The way you hold Jellycat, how s.l.o.w.l.y you eat and how absolutely horrified you are that most bugs exist at all.  Your tendency to fabricate the truth about what really happened to your toothpaste, or whether you really washed your hair.  Your horrible, horrible handwriting. Your beautiful, generous heart. Your crazy, wonky teeth.  The way you push up your glasses.

Ella 8-4 NST

You are a better story than I could have ever written, Ella Louise.

I still watch you sleep most nights.  I cover you, and brush the hair from your forehead. I kiss your crown and breathe in the scent of you. And I just look at you.

Ella 8-5 NST

From the first moment I knew, I have loved you.  Deeply, madly, and with every thing I am, I love you.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

Deeply

Living the Dream

I was up early again…what is with the not sleeping?  This morning it was 4:38 when I woke up.  I went downstairs, made coffee and did a little reading.  I read a piece about dreams, having dreams and making your dreams come true.  And I sat there and thought, I don’t really have a dream…it already came true…I already have my dream come true.

I already have my dream come true.

This morning my dream come true looked like this:

7:30 Me telling Ella to get herself ready for school (which includes four basic things every.single.morning. It does not vary:  1-get dressed. 2-put your jammies and undies where they belong. 3-brush your hair. 4-brush your teeth.)

7:32 Me telling Ella to get ready for school.

7:36 Me telling Ella to get back in her room and don’t come out until she’s fully dressed.

7:38 Me asking Ella what she is supposed to be doing instead of showing me how the handles on her glasses case can look like a smiley face. She forgot what she’s supposed to be doing. It’s understandable because she’s only been doing this for the last 1,000 days or so.

7:41 Me telling Ella to get back in her room and finish getting ready.

7:44 Me, with my hands over my face asking Ella what she is supposed to be doing.

7:46 Me finishing Ella’s hair for her because her idea of getting all the tats out is not a fully-matured idea.

7:48 Me telling Ella to brush her teeth. And not to forget her sweatshirt because it will be cool today.

7:50 Hugging her goodbye. Smelling sunblock in her hair. Feeling how small she is. Wishing her the best day ever…

I watched the old man drive off with those two redheads. Henry was playing with a rubik’s cube.  He has learned algorithms to solve the thing…hasn’t solved it yet but he will.  And Ella in the back…her little tiny self smiling at me with that wonky tooth of hers and waving to me.

Then I took a glance at her room.  Her jammies and undies are on the floor. Her sweatshirt is still sitting on her bed. And I’m pretty sure she didn’t brush her teeth either.

Yep.  Living the dream.

Living the Dream

Car Trouble

It’s 6:30 on Sunday morning. I couldn’t sleep.

The sunlight comes through our bathroom window. I could tell by the way the dappled light was shifting on the wall that there was a soft breeze blowing outside. I came downstairs to sip coffee and watch the branches sway, the leaves flutter and the sunlight dance as it rose over the ravines and through the trees. Simple, beautiful sunshine…it mends my soul.

Last weekend we took a trip to visit the parentals in coastal North Carolina. I actually forgot about school and deadlines and responsibility for a few days. Anyway, about five hours into the trip (maybe more…it’s all a blur now) we stopped for gas. It was at this point that the old man realized that the reverse gear was not functional. Um… Okay… So we forged ahead because really, what else could we do? The rest of the trip remained uneventful if you don’t count the dashboard beeping, the transmission light flaring, the jerky gear shifting and my fervent praying for us to puh-lease not get stuck on the bridge.

And then the next morning, the car wouldn’t go into drive, either.

I am going to miss that car.

We bought a new car a few days later. I cried the first time I drove it…one of those cries where you feel it in your throat, and in your chest, and your eyes water up but no tears fall. The new car is very nice, but all I really wanted was my old, smelly, gravely-engined Mountaineer back.

And now I have become the food police in the new car, Kate teases me.

No food in the new car!

No red Gatorade in the new car!

No water in the new car!  (You know how if you spill water in the car it smells like rotten beans for the next thirteen years? Ask me how I know…)

Someone, who shall remain nameless, got chocolate all over the inside door handle. The car is three days old and it’s already ruined. I looked at the chocolate and freaked out a tiny bit. And then out of my mouth flew a sentence that has been handed down through the generations…

This is why we can never have anything nice.

Car Trouble

On Boys, Again

Adolescent boys can be, well, juvenile.  Boys will act without thinking. Boys will be rough with each other. Boys will be loud with each other. Boys will insult each other. Maybe they laugh too often or too loud, or talk way too often about farts or run too fast in the hall, or maybe they wrestle with each other when they probably shouldn’t be wrestling.

These same boys have a side to them that doesn’t show to most people.  It’s the quiet side.  The thoughtful side. The sweet, tender side.  It’s the side that is fearful, and curious, and excitable and loving. It’s the side that still wants your face to be the last thing he sees at night, and still embraces you first thing in the morning.  It’s the side that wants you there, that needs your approval, and craves your love.

They are still little boys.

Half of them haven’t hit puberty yet. Their little brains haven’t come close to being mature. According to some scientific research, they aren’t even close to half way there.

And yet we expect them to sit still for seven hours in school, to be quiet all the time, to be focused, to be serious, constantly. Why are we preparing kids for college in 6th grade? Why are we trying to train them into elite athletes? It bothers me that we feel like every minute of their day should be scripted, scheduled, planned out.

It bothers me that we try to catch them misbehaving, almost as though we are trying our best to catch them doing something wrong. It bothers me immensely that we, as adults, are using cameras and surveillance to do so. And it bothers me that we are punishing them for doing something that is simply characteristic behavior of little boys. Typical, smart, generally well-behaved boys. Boys that do well in school, are well-liked by their peers and come from good families. Boys that are simply having fun with each other…goofing off and laughing and yes, rough-housing with each other the way boys do. The way boys *should* do.

At what point do we stop micro-managing them?  At what point do we give them a chance to relax a little?  And when do we let them just be what they were meant to be…to learn on their own…to make mistakes and learn from them without interference from us? When are they allowed to be boys?

Maybe the question is when will we allow them to be boys?  When will we begin treating our children like children again?  When will we remember what it was like to be 12 or 13 years old, and feel like every time you turn around you are doing something wrong again?

For more of my thoughts on boys, read here.

On Boys, Again