Two things about Jake today:
"I have something bad to tell you," he said yesterday. Inwardly, I groaned. Usually this is the prelude to an announcement of something broken, lost, or spilled. But not this time (and I'm starting to think this kid's a little melodramatic and I shouldn't assume the worst when he says things like this).
Jake took a deep breath. "I want to collect these little bobble head animals," he said. I saw nothing wrong with this. Jake's a collector: so far he's collected Pokemon, Bakugan, marbles, and rocks. He is also working on a collection of dirty socks shoved in between the couch cushions. Jake likes animals, so this latest infatuation seemed reasonable enough, given that we've been reading chapter books about magical pets. The illustrations on the covers of these books feature kittens and puppies with glowing eyes that would be a little creepy were it not for the hint of glitter sprinkled around them.
But Jake seemed embarrassed. He covered his eyes and squirmed while he waited for my reaction, as if he had just told me that he wanted to paint his fingernails and wear lipstick. "What's wrong with collecting those little animal things?" I asked Jake.
"Girls like them," he answered. "You know, they're girly things. And I'm not a girl." That I know very well, seeing as how I gave birth to him and changed a few million of his diapers. Also, he's always resisted the idea of painting his room pink.
So when we ended up at Wal Mart this afternoon, Jake wanted to check out the bobble head animal aisle. Only, he made me go down the aisle by myself while he waited by a store display. I immediately understood why. Everything--even the signs above the toys in this particular aisle--was pink. And everyone shopping in that part of the store was female. It was like I had walked into the gynecologist's office, which I'm quite familiar with. Or a Disney princess movie, which I'm not so familiar with because my boys won't watch princess shows with me. Suddenly I felt like spinning around and singing, "Someday my prince will come." I envisioned Jake and I waltzing through the store, a crew of Wal Mart employees singing and dancing along with us. The stuffed animals would come to life too, only they wouldn't be like the evil kind in Poltergeist. They would be cute bunnies who would beat their feet on the linoleum and say, "My name's Thumper, because I'm thumping." I would laugh, but not a snorting laugh like I usually do, but a high trill of delight befitting royalty. And there would be birds, little ones with speckled wings, and they would flutter around my head twittering happily. Little grey and white mice would come too, carrying tiny scissors and needles. They would make me a dress--no, make that a gown--and then they would get me some pearls from the jewelry cabinet and put them on my neck, which had magically become smooth and soft, like it was when I was twenty. Oh, this was indeed a magical place, this Aisle Twelve. And I wanted to stay forever.
But I could not. I had a little boy waiting for me. And he was standing at a safe distance, watching me.
"Hey, Jake," I called. "Come help me choose a new bobble head kitty for my collection."
Jake's eyes widened. "Mu-ther," he said, his voice low and gritty. This was not part of his plan. Nor was it part of mine. He didn't move. And neither did I. But this was a good idea, or so I thought. I wouldn't have to remember all the prices and Jake would get to see the animals under the guise of helping me.
Then, slowly, he walked to my side. I put my arm around his shoulder and pointed to the kitties and the puppies. "What do you think of that one?" I asked, gesturing towards a purple cat in a plastic purse. He said nothing, just looked. So I shut up and let him shop.
In the end, Jake didn't have enough money to buy anything. With shoulders slumped, we walked out of the store into the parking lot, empty handed. And then I thought of something. Eventually, if he saved his allowances, Jake could start his collection. That would mean we'd have to come back to the Land of Aisle Twelve, where the fluorescent stars shine brightly in the warehouse woods. I giggled at the thought and nearly skipped to the car.
"What's wrong with you?" Jake asked, studying my face.
I took his hand and squeezed it. I considered asking Jake for a waltz through the parking lot. But from his dejected expression, he wasn't in the mood. This was not going to be a happily ever after day. At least not for him. "Oh, nothing, my little prince," I said.
#2: The other day we hit upon an infomercial about stuffed animals that turn into blankets. While everyone else made fun of it, Jake grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the phone number. But then, the price flashed on the screen. "Nineteen ninety-five?" he said, his voice incredulous. He threw his pencil down. "What a rip-off."
Is it really June 12th? Because yesterday it was rainy and 48 degrees. Today it's still rainy and cold. And you know that's no exaggeration when you find your cat snuggled up on the bed with a blanket wrapped around her.
Our cat reminds me of our teenager, who sleeps twelve hours at a time now. Only, our cat's a lot smaller and has longer nails.
Since I have a summer fun list from the youngest, I thought it would be nice to get one from the middle kid too. Paul is eleven going on twelve in October, so his list is a little flashier than Jake's. He's not one for picking flowers, and simple pleasures to him usually involve physical activity. Though he reads and eats, they are not the main attraction. Also, Paul prefers to write in cursive, probably because he earned his "writer's license" last year, which is a small card that says he can write words with as many curls and swirls as his little heart desires, which apparently is a lot.
I told Paul to make a reasonable list, meaning nothing too costly. "Make it cheap or free," I said. He heard me, aside from the zipline and motorbiking, which he was nice enough to warn me would be expensive.
There were some things I would not have guessed, like sleeping in a fort. "You mean, a fort inside or outside?" I asked him. He said he wanted to sleep inside. But in a fort. Like camping without the bugs and the rocks. Like his father, he enjoys nature well enough, but he "doesn't want to sleep in it."
And last, Paul would like to celebrate Sloth Day again. Of course, to most kids, isn't every day Sloth Day?
I felt a tug on my sleeve the other night. I looked down to see Jake, a grin on his face and a mischevious gleam in his eyes. "I have something for you," he said, his voice almost a whisper. I braced myself for a wiggly worm, a water balloon, or on the tamer side, a new card trick. These are the kinds of things a mother like me is presented with from boys like mine. But no. Jake pulled a small bunch of flowers from behind his back and thrust them toward me.
"Aww, for me?" I asked. Jake nodded. And so I had to take a picture to remember the moment. Although I think I probably would have even without it.
This morning it was just you and me while we waited for your brothers to get home from their last day of school. You finished seventh grade yesterday, and seeing this opportunity for alone time with mom, you requested a trip downtown. I like going downtown, and I love being with you, so I said yes.
You may be wondering why there's a picture of a pasta package in this letter. That's not just any pasta there, mister. That's genu-wine noodle product from Italy, purchased with you from Tony Caputo's Italian Market downtown. You really wanted to go to a sporting goods shop to look at an airsoft gun, which I'm less than happy about (mostly because you look like a crazed lunatic with those goggles you wear while toting this big black gun thing through the back yard. Also, I worry that one day you'll turn that thing on the blue jays just to see what would happen. Or you'll shoot your eye out, which you tell me is impossible because it's "only an airsoft gun" and not the real thing. But I don't believe you. It's my job to worry, and it's your job to make me worry, and I'd say you're doing a bang-up job of it. And that pun was fully intended.)
I managed to delay the gun shopping by suggesting we get a pastry first. I know I said I wasn't going to eat pastries anymore, but I also know you didn't think I would stick to that. And you were right. Thanks, by the way, for sharing your pain au chocolat with me, even if it was a puny little corner piece with just a smidge of chocolate smeared on the edge. And thanks, too for not laughing or rolling your eyes at me when I held my hand out next to the window and said, "Hey, that's nice light." You patiently waited for me to daydream for a moment about what it would be like to have a natural light studio in that little bakery with its tall old windows and its creaky wood floors the color of honey. You and I know that it's necessary to daydream, if only for a minute or two each day. I dream of light and pictures, you dream of basketball and hunting. These things keep us going. I don't know where these things keep us going to, but I do know that if we stop dreaming, reality will settle in and spread, like the mold growing in the shower. (It's precisely because of this metaphor that I don't clean the shower too often.)
After our pastries, I suggested we stop at the Italian market next door. And you, my sweet child, readily agreed, even though we had only a little time left before we had to head home. "You're like a kid in a candy shop," you said as I scurried from shelf to shelf, oooh-ing and ahh-ing at the olive oils, the noodles, the bread. You're right. And you, what were you? You looked at everything with delight too, albeit guarded delight. But I saw your smile when you pointed out the shelf of jams and jellies. I watched you examine all of the bottles of Italian sodas, picking up each one and reading the label aloud. I saw you run your fingers over the packages of pasta, and I surely saw you lean down to examine the chocolates in the glass case at the checkout counter. You smacked your lips just like I did when we tried little bites of bread dipped in balsamic vinegar laced with molasses. Face it. You're a foodie just like me. It can't be helped, so it must be nurtured.
And then finally, we made it to the sporting goods store. You stood in front of a dozen airsoft guns, stewing over whether you really wanted to buy one or not. I held a tiny little mouse of a hope that you would change your mind and decide to save your money for a big blowout shopping trip at the Italian Market or a five-course meal at a fancy French restaurant. But no. You chose the gun. You may be a foodie, but you're still a boy. I wondered then, were you so patient at the market so I'd agree to this purchase? Was this a set-up? I hope not. Because there's a little French pastry shop I want to try and hoped you'd come along for the ride. That is, if you're not too busy shooting up the neighborhood.
Later, after you had sprayed the back yard with little plastic bullets, I tiptoed towards my room, rubbing my hands together at the thought of spending more time with a pile of library books by my bed. But you caught me in the hall. "So, reading time?" you asked. I hadn't planned on it. But then, I thought of our morning together. I thought of how many love calories I consumed by spending time with you. I'm still hungry for more. And so when you wanted to hang out a little longer, I sighed so softly that you wouldn't hear. I looked at you, or rather up at you, since you are now taller than me, and smiled. "Yes," I said. "I'd love to."
Yesterday, Jake and my husband exchanged a few notes during church. I chose to be the reverant one, which is to say I was sleeping at the time. But that makes no difference, because Jake's list of things to do after church did not involve me. Smart child. After only eight years on earth he's figured out that my Sunday afternoons are reserved for sleeping or baking. Or both.
Instead of snatching the notebook out of my husband's hands when I woke to find him and the kids giggling and passing notes, I chose to save it here. This memory was too cute to toss. Also, I think Jake may be a future writer, or at the very least a future foodie. (He has his priorities straight. Food first, play second.)
I can't help but notice that "help Mom make dinner" was not listed. Perhaps an oversight? Or maybe he knew Mom wasn't going to make dinner anyway. And of course big brother Paul had to get in on the conversation and point out the impossibility of having that much fun in so short a time. But you know what? When it was time to go to bed, my dude turned to me and said, "Well, we almost did everything on the list." I stared at him, wondering how he managed to do it all, especially since he had spent time with me and the other kids, too, in addition to doing the dinner dishes and going on a walk. Oh yeah, and he brushed the cat, as he does every night.
It's times like these that I look up at the sky and mouth "thank you" to Heavenly Father. I am one lucky girl.
Tonight it's raining. As in cats and dogs. Literally. Hopefully, it will cool down the house. At the very least, it brought our cat in, whose been laying on the porch all evening with her arms and legs outstretched, mewing passively as I walked by. I know how she feels. This afternoon I threw away a bread bag from the grocery store, thinking to myself that my homemade bread days are over for the next three or four months. With the kitchen temperature hovering around 95, I have no desire to turn the oven on. And I have no desire to cook. Strangely, though, I still desire to eat.
Around bedtime, Jake yelled, "Everyone come outside and see the rainbow!" I was the only one who answered his call. The others lay on the couch watching the NBA playoffs, which, if you ask me, should be over by now. (Every time I ask if this is the last game, my husband and kids always answer, "Sort of. It's the last game these two teams will play, and then there's eight more games." Then I ask if that will signal the end of the season, and this is what they say: "Well, then there's seven more games after that, and then it's over." I've decided it never really ends. The NBA may take a small coffee break, but then it starts up again before you can say, "Isn't there a Masterpiece Theatre Jane Austen show on tonight?.)
So Jake and I went outside and saw this on the west, and this on the east.
And then the earth rumbled and the rains came. It's really bedtime now, and the wind is blowing enough to make the chimes hanging from our deck play a few notes. In the distance I hear children playing. From the busy street outside the neighborhood a siren sounds, its whine growing more faint as the winds pick up, and the chimes begin to play in earnest. Thunder tumbles through the mountains once more and when I look up, the sky is dark. I listen for the rain, and hear its heavy drops hitting the deck outside my window. This is when I notice that the basketball game is over. The television is silent. A bug crawls towards my words on my computer screen. Upstairs, I can hear the footsteps of my family getting ready for sleep, and I look at the clock and realize that I am sleepy too. So good night. And it will be good, with the sound of rain to lull me to sleep, and the songs of birds to wake me in the morning.
Today I made up a new holiday, which I call The Day of the Sloth. It was around 2:30 when I thought it up, just as I was heading over to pick up Calvin from his last day of school. I'll admit, I am dreading the thought of summer, but also loving it too. I'm dreading the end of my freedom from children for six hours a day, but loving not having to drive to the junior high every other day or worry about homework or practice or projects. It will be fun to just hang out with the kiddoes.
But still, the end of school for them means vacation. Yet for me it means the end of my vacation and the start of more work. So, today I invented a little holiday for myself. I've been nauseous for the last few days of my vacation, and instead of rushing around to all of my favorite museums or shopping at thrift stores (both of which the kids won't let me do), I lay in bed trying not to startle my stomach into hurling. Today I finally felt better and took myself to Barnes and Noble for an hour. But I still needed a treat, and there was no way I was going to be the one to make it. Plus, I needed some TLC in the form of a good video.
It occurred to me that what I really wanted to do was to lay on our ugly beast of a couch with a bowl of ice cream and possibly a bag of red licorice. Even though our laundry room is covered in piles of clean clothes awaiting folding and hanging, I didn't want to have anything to do with them. I wanted to just do nothing. I realized I wanted to be a sloth. Hence, the holiday was born. And it was lovely. Calvin and I watched a movie, noshing on the licorice and slurping ice cream. For dinner, we had frozen pizzas and carrot sticks. And for dessert, more ice cream. When Rick came home, he found us bloated and happy, the cat curled up next to Calvin.
"Welcome to The Day of the Sloth," I said, waving my arm imperiously. "Come, join us."
But slothful behavior doesn't come naturally to my husband. He just shook his head and stomped up the stairs to the kitchen. Calvin and I looked at each other, shrugged and continued the celebration.
Now my stomach aches again. But in a good way. The Day of the Sloth was so successful that I'm thinking of expanding it to an entire week. Perhaps even a whole summer. But then, who would do the laundry?
Remember the website we talked about in the summer ideas post? Greenhour.org has plenty of ideas to get your kids out in nature, but if you want them all in a handy book, pick up this tome by Todd Christopher. You'll find chapters on exploring your backyard (with instructions on how to make a bug vacuum!!), the mountains, the seaside, the meadows, and understanding and observing weather. So get this book. Then head outside!