Today, I am partying with Jacqueline and the blogging community at: https://acookingpotandtwistedtales.com/2016/07/31/where-are-you-its-happening-this-way-party-time/ Come on over and check out all the great blogs!
My cat is a fierce hunter-wannabe. She will chase and play with any bug that enters our house—well, most of them anyway. Occasionally, she is even successful in capturing her prey.
Last week, in her most recent fierce hunter move, she escaped onto the deck, chased a squirrel off our second story deck, and came running back into the house. While she totally meant to chase the squirrel (and win), she certainly didn’t mean to come running back into the house.
One morning this week, I watched as she tried to capture a moth. Her paw was right there batting it—once, twice, three times—slipping down the smooth glass of the window each time. The moth was still and unmoving, but moth and paw were not connecting. Despite her efforts to get the moth, my little cat was unable to capture it, and she couldn’t understand why.
The moth was sitting just on the other side of the window. But that didn’t stop the cat from the pursuit. She could see the moth. She wanted it. And she was sure she had a pretty good shot at it. She didn’t recognize the window as a barrier to her hunting skills.
I got to thinking about her attempts to hunt through the window, her ability to see what she wanted and go after it. And I considered how her actions compare to some of the actions in my own life. So often, it seems, I can see what I want—either literally or figuratively, but I can’t quite get there. There are unseen barriers, and my goal is elusive.
But one day, when I least expect it, I will open the door, and my cat will accidentally slip outside (she’s sneaky like that), or the moth will fly in. And in that brief moment, the barriers between fierce hunter and prey will melt away, and the cat will have access to what she wants. This same type of fortuitous moment might work out for me, as well. If I keep working, keep striving, keep pursuing my goals, a moment of opportunity may arise, and I, too, will have access to what I want.
My son and I were shopping, checking items off his packing list for camp. So many things he needed this year, it seemed, perhaps because he was going to a different camp for a more intensive week of training.
I had brought a short shopping list that included a couple of items, but I knew there was one more. What was it? I couldn’t remember. Then we walked past the display of watches. “Oh! You’re supposed to have a watch,” I told him.
He looked at me and then at the watch display. “I hate watches. They’re so annoying,” he reported.
It’s kind of funny how some people wear watches every day and others do not. I started wearing a watch when I was in elementary school, but none of my own children have felt the need to wear one. I wonder sometimes if it has to do with the prevalence of cell phones—if kids have their cell phones, they always have the time.
And we had tried this before—buying a watch. Each of my children has had a watch at one point or another. But it was back when they were quite young, and time wasn’t an issue because I was the keeper of their schedules.
“It’s up to you,” I said. “Your packing list says you need one, but I’m sure some of the other boys won’t have one.”
He walked around the watch display, checking out his options. “This one’s kinda cool,” he said, picking one up and examining it. It had a couple of features beyond the basics. The coolest feature was the time zone feature. Plus, it was water resistant and had an alarm, both of which would be handy at camp.
“If you want it, you can get it,” I told him, knowing the coupon in my pocket would reduce the price. “I’m sure it will be handy to have at camp.” Especially since cell phones wouldn’t be prevalent because electronics were discouraged.
At home, he spent a little time learning the features of the new watch, so he would know how it worked before we left for camp in the morning. (Yes friends, it was a last-minute shopping trip…). The next day, he walked out the door actually wearing his new watch.
A week later, when I picked him up at camp, he was still wearing it. As we walked to the car with his gear, he talked about the experiences he’d had over the past week: the hiking, the cooking, the activities.
Then he smiled that crooked smile he gets when he’s about to say something funny. “You know,” he said. “It’s really convenient to have a watch. You never have to wonder what time it is.”
“Yes,” I replied, looking at my own watch. “It is convenient, isn’t it?”
I went out on an errand with my son this morning, and we came across an interesting sight. On the side of the road, there was a man walking his bicycle up the hill. That, in itself, is not an unusual thing to see. However, this man was pushing his bike up the hill in just his socks because he was carrying his shoes.
Observing this from the passenger seat, my son said, “Why is he walking his bike?” Because from his perspective, if you have a bike, you should ride it.
My mommy-brain kicked in. “I am more concerned about the fact that he is carrying his shoes and walking in stocking feet!” I exclaimed. Then something in my mommy-brain started to dial back what I had just said.
When was the last time I heard that idiom? Had I ever used it with my son before? Did he even know what that meant? Does anyone know what that means anymore? And I started to think about the word “stockings” and the fact that we never refer to our socks as “stockings.”
Over the years, when my children run through the door and out onto the walkway without their shoes on, I will say to them, “What are you doing outside in just your socks?” I have threatened to make them buy their own socks when walking on the pavement creates holes in their soles. But I don’t remember saying anything to them about “stocking feet.”
This is a term from my childhood. I can still hear my own mother clearly telling us not to walk around in stocking feet, that we should wear shoes or slippers or something. I half expected to Google the term and see—before the definition—the notation “archaic.” I was relieved to see the notation wasn’t there, and the examples were fairly current.
Perhaps I have used that term more recently than I remember because my son didn’t question my words, and I didn’t say anything more about the man walking his bike and carrying his shoes. Even still, my mommy-brain is stuck on that sight.
After her drivers ed class today, my daughter assumed the “browsing position” in front of the refrigerator. She had the doors flung wide open, one handle in each hand, and she was searching. Up on tiptoes to check out what was behind the condiments on the top shelf. Bent down to look behind the bowls on the bottom shelf. I could tell this was serious business. It was lunchtime, and she was hungry.
She sighed. “Is there no tortellini left?” she questioned. Really, from where I was sitting on the opposite side of the door, it was tough to tell.
“Is it not in there?” I asked, not admitting that less than an hour earlier, I had offered it to her younger brother as a lunch option.
“I don’t see it.”
I opened the dishwasher, and the empty bowl presented itself as evidence. I closed the dishwasher. “No more tortellini,” I reported.
“And there’s no pasta salad left, either, is there?” She already knew the answer, but I could tell she was holding on to a shred of hope.
“No, there’s not,” I reluctantly reported. “We finished that for dinner last night.”
“So there’s nothing to eat!” she griped. “Why does everyone always eat all the food without me?”
Hmm… it must be a conspiracy.
Or, more likely, it’s the reality of life in a house with teenage boys.
I’m going on a drive or two. Why don’t you hop in the car and come along. I’ve written another post about what it’s like to drive with new drivers. Since most parents will likely experience this thrilling adventure eventually, I’d like to take you along on a couple of my experiences. So Buckle up… it’s going to be quite a ride!
Drive #1: Pedestrians
We are driving along when I see people walking in the road up ahead. (One might argue that these people should not be walking in the road, but that would be another blog post.) These people are a distance away, but close enough that we should begin to slow down.
“There are people walking in the road up ahead,” I inform the teen driver.
“I see them,” the teen replies. We continue moving at the same rate of speed.
“You should slow down,” I instruct.
“I am,” the teen driver informs me. I feel no difference in the speed we are traveling.
“SLOW DOWN!!” I snap.
“MOM!” the teen replies. “I AM slowing down. I’m not going to HIT them!!”
Drive #2: Highways
Highways are always a bit dicey. After all, highway driving requires a consistent high rate of speed, which most people who have only been driving for a month or two are not used to. Add in the occasional need for an evasive maneuver and, well, it’s not always pretty. On this drive, the traffic is fairly heavy. We are driving through a “city,” so vehicles are entering and exiting the highway. We are approaching an entrance ramp, and there is an 18 wheeler getting onto the highway.
“That truck is going to need to merge,” I say to my teen driver. The truck is far bigger than the car we are in.
“I see it,” my teen driver says.
“So… you might want to give him space so he can get in here,” I nudge.
“It’s his job to merge with me,” the teen informs me. This is information learned in driving class.
“I understand that,” I say. “But he is bigger than you.” And coming up fast, I want to add.
“That doesn’t matter, Mom,” the teen states. “I am in this lane, and he has to merge.”
“Yes,” I say, beginning to get impatient. “But he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He wants to get in this lane, and it doesn’t seem to matter that you are here.”
“He can merge with me,” the teen is emphatic, but I see that the trucker clearly has no intention of “merging” with anyone. He owns the road he is not yet on.
“GIVE HIM ROOM!!” I raise my voice. “He is much bigger than you, and he is NOT stopping!”
“He was supposed to merge with me,” the teen grumbles. “I am in this lane.” While I can’t argue with my teen’s knowledge of the laws and right of way, there is something to be said for “an ounce of prevention….” Especially in the case of a vehicle that is many times bigger than the one you are in.
Drive #3: Medians
Sometimes, learning about medians can be an interesting adventure. Pulling out of a shopping plaza with a very new driver means the teen is not yet even paying attention to things like medians. We are at a four-way intersection of several parking lots as we are leaving a restaurant, and my teen is driving.
“Turn left here,” I say, not even thinking that there are two possibilities. My teen does as I say, turning left and completely missing the “keep right” sign. We end up to the left of the median.
“STOP!” I say, and the teen stops the car and looks at me.
I am simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief and laughing at the situation. “Back up.” I point to the median out my passenger window. “You need to be on the other side of this median. See those cars?” I point to the intersection up ahead. “They are going to be coming in here.”
“Oh. Well, you told me to turn left, so I did.” Thankfully, everyone in the car thinks this is marginally funny. “You didn’t tell me I had to go to the other side of the median.”
“No, I did not. My bad,” I say, as we readjust into the correct lane and continue on our way.
Drive #4: Impatience
We are driving on a two-lane road. We are observing the exact speed limit. I will be the first to admit, the speed limit feels a bit slow on this road, but kudos to the driver for maintaining a consistent and perfect speed.
The car behind us does not appreciate driving the speed limit. It has been on our bumper since we turned on this road. I don’t believe the teen driver has noticed, but I have.
Suddenly, the car behind us pulls out into the other lane and speeds past us. The teen driver slows to allow him easier passage in what is a no passing zone.
“Well, he’s in a hurry!” the teen comments, accelerating back to the speed limit.
Hey, thanks for coming along for the ride! These teen drivers, my first two… they have been somewhat easy to teach. My youngest, he’ll be driving in just a few short months (nine to be exact, but who’s counting?) I’m a bit concerned about that one. He is already calculating how fast my car can go without self-destructing….
Recently, I have been feeling as though my life is spent attending to the needs of everyone around me—children, adults, felines, etc. I have lost touch with myself—the very things that make me who I am—and sometimes, I feel as though I am in danger of bursting into a million tiny pieces and floating off in every direction. I imagine my children’s initial shock at the explosion, like a ‘poof’ of something disappearing in a magic show, and then the scramble to gather the pieces. But it will be too late. I will be gone. As this image fills my head, I catch myself wondering whether ‘spontaneous explosion’ is a thing that can happen to humans.
Last evening, in my need to get out of the house for a few minutes of peace, I went on a journey. Okay… I lie. I took out the trash. But for me in my condo association, “taking out the trash” means a quarter mile walk to the dumpster. It’s usually a nice evening stroll, though if the trash is particularly heavy, it can be tedious. Last night, the trash was light.
My daughter had just come in from a walk and said she had seen a turtle laying its eggs by the side of the pond. As I approached the pond, I wondered if I would see the turtle. Because of the summer heat, the pond is covered in a thin, green film of algae, swirled by the breezes that sometimes play across the water’s surface. The pond is so evenly covered that it is reminiscent of the first skin of ice that appears each year when the cold sets in. The algae though, it makes the pond seem neglected, dirty.
Further down the path, I enter a thick grove of trees—the darkest spot on the journey to my destination. I am a week too late for fireflies, I think, though it isn’t quite dark enough outside to tell for sure. Last week and the week before, the fireflies danced under these trees.
On the walk back toward home, birds are flitting near a toppled and rotting tree stump left behind by a severe storm several years back. The smells of forest remind me that there is a drought, and in my mind, I am transported to the year I lived in northern California. There, the scent was similar—dry and dusty—but was tinged with eucalyptus and Manzanita. As I pass the pond once again, a bullfrog sings his mournful song.
The walk was not long, but the noise of the day has been replaced by the soft sound of my sneakers on the pavement and the night noises of nature. The last streaks of light are fading from the sky as I duck under tree branches hanging low above the walkway. I breathe deeply of the air that is beginning to cool down, and my mind is clear. The clarity may only last a moment, but I am ready to go back to work.
I open the door to my house and step inside, feeling just a little less likely to spontaneously explode.
One morning last spring, W was practicing his knots (because Scouts do that kind of thing when they’re bored…). He was using a long length of climbing rope, and somehow, he thought that tying one end to the couch and the other to himself was a good idea. Hold that thought….
J and I were in the kitchen having a conversation about the day. We were preparing to do some community service, and we were reminiscing about previous experiences at this same site in years past. I had started my breakfast, but as usual, I had twenty-five different projects I was also tending, including the laundry in the basement.
W kept calling to me, wanting me to know just how far (or not) he was able to stray from the couch. He was, quite literally, on a relatively short leash.
I popped a bagel in the toaster, cracked two eggs in a pan, and took a quick trip upstairs to gather laundry. When I returned, the bagel popped up, and I removed it from the toaster. However, because the bagel was frozen when I put it in, one particular part just didn’t seem to be done, so I pushed it back down. I didn’t plan to leave it for the entire toasting cycle. I flipped the eggs and went down to drop the sheets in the laundry room. I started the washing machine, poured in the detergent, and added the sheets.
When I got to the top of the stairs, W made sure I saw his knots as I walked through the living room. “Nice!” I complimented as I gave him the thumbs up.
The acrid smell of burning toast hit my nose just as the smoke detector screamed a piercing bleep. Darn! My first thought came through the screaming of the smoke detector. A good bagel, ruined!
But then from the other room, interspersed with the beeps, I heard a small, pathetic, voice. “Help? Help me!”
And then a splay of laughter erupted from the child who had tied himself to the couch. Clearly, he had approached this knot-tying activity with a false sense of security. Because after all, what if…?
I looked at J and tipped my head, indicating our escape through the door. She smiled in conspiracy. We took off running out the front door (safety first, you know) where we stood on the front walkway laughing so hard we were doubled over. The bleeping of the smoke detector stopped as abruptly as it had begun. We were deeply amused with ourselves and the situation.
Back in the house, W remained in the living room, expertly tied to the leg of the couch. He, too, was laughing. Of all the times that the smoke detector could have gone off, it happened when he was unable to leave his spot in the living room.
Of course, if it had been a real emergency, I would have grabbed the scissors and cut him free from the couch before I ran out the door. He would have been mad, initially, that I had ruined his rope, but he would have been grateful that I had saved his life.
Burnt toast, however, does not constitute a real emergency, but a valuable lesson was learned that day. The thought of tying oneself to the couch to practice knots… maybe that’s not such a good idea.
One of the skills that I have taught my children—perhaps the only one that will ever come in handy as they already use it fairly often—is the skill of searing the ends of rope, cord, ribbon, nylon, etc. I have taught them how to pass these ends and edges through a flame in order to “seal” them so they won’t fray. This is a skill I learned in an indoor/outdoor sewing class back in my high school days—one of the few useful skills I acquired in the six years spanning grades seven through 12.
The other day, C came into the kitchen with a length of black cord that was fraying. “I need the lighter,” he declared as he walked toward the crock where we keep it.
“Oh…” I hesitated. “We don’t have one that works. Your brother used it, and I meant to replace it.” I had put lighter on my shopping list countless times, but I never seemed to remember to actually buy one. The one we had was clearly empty and wouldn’t stay lit, but I hadn’t thrown it out. Somehow, I figured it would be useful (for what, I have no idea) until a new one appeared.
“So…?” he posed as a question, thinking I would fill in an answer for him. I continued typing on my laptop. “What am I supposed to do? I need to fix this.” He held out the cord for me to see, but I continued to work. By this point in my mothering career, I pretty much have eyes in the back of my head, the side of my head, the top of my head, and the bottom of my chin. I knew what he needed.
“We have matches,” I told him. He began searching the junk drawer in the kitchen, and he seemed to have found some because the next thing I knew, I heard him trying to light one. The first match didn’t stay lit long enough for him to sear all of his cord. The second one didn’t, either. He was on the third when I finally looked up from my work.
“How about if you light a candle?” I suggested. “Then you will have a constant flame, and you can work with that.”
Success! He was able to complete his task of searing the ends of three, maybe four, cords.
The next day, W walked into the kitchen with a length of paracord that he had wound into an impressive skein. “Nice!” I nodded my approval.
“I just need to seal these ends,” he said, holding them up for me to see.
“Um…. We don’t have a lighter that works,” I reported, feeling a strange sense of deja vu. “But we do have matches you can use.”
He dug through the drawer and pulled out the matches. He studied them for a minute. “How do these things work?” he asked, jokingly. As a Boy Scout, he has used matches once or twice.
“Hey, I can help you!” C said, coming to his brother’s rescue. “I’ve mastered this old-fashioned technology!”
For some reason, I had ventured into this summer thinking I might catch a break in the grocery department. My youngest was planning a backpacking trip right after school ended, a week at camp in June, and another week at camp in July. With all that time away, I wouldn’t have to buy as many groceries, right?
Wrong. Instead, my son has been on a feeding frenzy this summer. When he returned from three days of backpacking, he needed calories. And lots of them. With three days of hiking—and carrying a pack to boot—he had worked off most of the nearly non-existent fat reserve he maintains. His muscles needed fuel.
When he returned from camp, the story was nearly the same. The boys were active from sunrise until bedtime—classes and hiking and traipsing around the camp, uphill in all directions, it seemed. And the boys were responsible for cooking their own meals. Some days, the food was overcooked; some days, it was closer to raw. He ate, sure, but….
These teenagers, their hunger comes in layers. There is the: I just got up and I’m kinda hungry hunger. That one is easily satisfied with breakfast, or in the case of my oldest, who rises midday, lunch.
There is the: I’ve been at practice for three hours and I didn’t eat enough before I went. Please let me at the food NOW kind of hunger. That one requires some leftover dinner, generally a more substantial meal will satisfy this hunger.
My youngest has been experiencing the: I’ve been away [at camp, backpacking, etc.] working out all day and I haven’t had anything to eat all week but rehydrated pack food or food burned by the boys in my patrol kind of hunger. This is serious. This hunger requires hundreds maybe thousands of calories over a period of days to finally satisfy. In truth, I am not sure there is enough time between camp pick up last Saturday and camp drop off this Sunday to make a dent in that hunger. And the food at the grocery store is getting sparse from my frequent visits.
Catch a break on groceries? Not a chance. The money I don’t spend on the weeks my youngest is away is just a small down payment on the groceries for the following week. He is hungry, and he needs fuel for all of his summer activities. And he’s not the only one. I have three active teenagers, after all.
*[Image is a photo of the typical state of the food supply in my house.]