Category Archives: Family
It is summer here and I have boats on the mind. We returned recently from the land of canoes, kayaks, and other water craft. Boy one spent the first day of and a half of vacation making a plug to fill the hole of an old rowboat. He cleaned it out and attached a small motor he found. The row boat’s plug was not perfect but only a little ongoing bailing seemed necessary to keep things ship shape. His triumph culminated in a solo trip with his brother to unknown places. There they discovered a waterfall, a swimming hole, and a burning desire for more adventures of the same.
On a summer evening mid July I was singing. Kids waited for the story to unfold, laughing as another woman and I sang every verse of “There’s a hole in my bucket.” Since then my head has been visited going on weeks now with the recurring choruses. There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza . . . With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza.
I share Henry’s bewilderment. Buckets in need of repair are tricky. Effective possible remedies are difficult to come by.
I picture the rowboat and know that I too am a boat that requires bailing. There is a hole in the boat, I have said quietly now to a few friends.
One night we sang campfire songs in the living room around a pile of red pillows because it was too windy outside for a real fire. This is the song that never ends sang the kids again and again. For the uninitiated, there are three more lines in the song which then circle back to the beginning whereby you sing with increasing gusto, this is the song that never ends! Kids love the song inversely proportional to how much other people hate it. The quickest and most bearable way out (which is still not that quick) is to sing along and pretend to like it.
Recapping, there’s a hole in my bucket, a song that never ends, a rowboat with a homemade plug, and me the boat with a hole. Or two.
Mulling it all over on a walk at home, I remembered another very windy vacation day. With much enthusiasm two kids gathered materials: sticks, hammer, nail, duct tape, pillow case, white garbage bags. Two models of a sail emerged and out into the bay they went. With one sitting on a blow up raft and another on a blow up yellow tube, they held up sails to catch the wind. Over and over they went, changing the angle of the sail, trying new starting points, stopping to take the sails apart and revamp with new materials. Twice, for thirty seconds of so, they were able to sail side by side. The last sail began with a laborious swim to drag sail and raft as far from shore as possible. An impressively long sail followed, steered with great pride to the precise corner of the dock.
We bail our leaking boats at times with a bit of discouragement. Will the bailing never end? Can anything be done about the holes? Seemingly ignoring the questions, the wind blows lightly. Only enough to tickle our ears. We remember that unannounced and arriving on a schedule quite its own, wind also comes with a mighty will across the water. When it does, from almost nothing, sails can be made.
Today the tiniest of breezes, and it is true that for now, we bail. But not without hope of wind and sails.
I had hoped to post more today but alas a houseful of seven happy kids and the need to say, “please shut the door,” six hundred and seventy-five thousand times, left me unable to process too many other thoughts. County Road 21 is taking some down time for the next few weeks with plans to be back for the second week of August. In the mean time we’ll be catching up on farm work, dispensing with farm work, taking walks, canoeing, kayaking, reading, talking, taking naps, and playing endless games of cards.
Blessings on you all.
p.s This just in as I write . . . one of mine to visiting sleepover guest . . . do you know what I call those little poops that are just tiny? Rabbit droppings! I just did a rabbit dropping . . . and on the conversation went to hair, pig tails, and other such important things.
photo compliments of morguefile.com
Today I’m sharing links to some older posts (fall 2013/spring 2014) and saying a word about sharing. People ask me sometimes if it’s okay to share my posts. The answer is absolutely, yes! (and yes please!) Any help in spreading the word about the blog is much appreciated. If you like what you read on a particular day, tell your friends. If you find something dull, troubling, or unpleasant, why not send along a link to your enemies? A thought anyway.
Today’s sharing review has a bit of a family stories theme . . .
This photo caught my eye on morguefile.com as well.
This is the season of letting go. The thought comes a few weeks ago. I walk around with it uncertain. Letting go is not just about loss. It can feel good to lay down heavy things.That is what I tell myself. I try many times to write before I can find words. I promise myself I can throw it away unseen.
If this were the season of letting go, I would. . .
Let go of all the measurements and calculations to prove that I’m okay.
Let go of attempts to be good enough to merit love
Let go of all the people I have tried to get to fill the holes. Really. Let them all go. Wander out into traffic to forget me or not.
Let go of protecting myself from failure (who defines that anyway?)
Let go of needing to prove something, protect something, and stand out as something.
Let go of the worry about where I fit or what people think
I keep picturing Boy two and the bird. We were on our way down the driveway when I saw the cat. She had a bird in her mouth. I stopped the car. Boy two tore open the sliding door and leapt out. He pried open her jaws with his fingers and against her wishes, the cat let go. The bird flew up from her mouth into the air, across the lawn and into the sky.
I am the cat right now, but maybe I will also be the bird.
That’s how far I get. After that weeks go by and I can’t look at what I’d written or think another single thought about letting go. So much for the cat and the bird.
Over the weekend, I take Boy one to the airport to fly alone across three provinces. Upon arrival he is to find a taxi, buy a bus ticket, and use up five hours (all composed of sixty minutes) before boarding a bus. At the other end of the bus ride is two weeks of summer camp a very long way from home. It is my idea. (A fact which I hate myself for all the way to the airport.) Boy one is a tiny bit nervous (not nearly enough) but also intoxicated with the joy of so much trust, independence and adventure. I hug him goodbye at the airport. He walks away smiling.
Back in the car, I remember the season of letting go. My boy, in the air, above me, beyond me is tearing my heart out. I see a picture of us. Me privately grieving while I smile and gently push him away. He is too happy to see my tears. He cannot stop grinning. This is great comfort indeed. My heart hurts, but I’m doing my job if in only a whisper I can croak out the word, “Fly!” to my son.
A question knocks at the door of me. Might a season of letting go become also a season of flight? Not just for him, but for me?
I’m going to aim to post on Tuesdays for the summer, and then again on either Thursday or Friday. Quiet is a bit harder to find around here when school is out. Although I’m getting better at maintaining a train of thought in between door slammings and Lego negotiations, it has it’s limits. I’m attempting a zen kind of peace about the whole thing by trying to go with the flow.
The kids have not yet come down off the high the comes from the end of school and summer’s arrival. They wake up eager to plan adventures and get togethers. Mention of tasks requiring physical labor produce disbelief. A sense of rising injustice follows quickly. Right on the heels of that a disorientation sets in (always against their will). This allows them to forget what they were told and divert to something more pleasant.
See you Tuesday . . .
Picture is upside down but candles are arranged to spell, “old.”
The holiday was national as applied to the nation of County Road 21, where my husband and I were again celebrating our shared birthday. The kids made the cake, to which the poor lighting does not do justice. My contribution to the cake was in the form of empathy band aids for all the emotionally disenfranchised during it’s making. Knowing only who hurt whose feelings, whose ideas got TOTALLY ignored, and that they didn’t like any of the frosting recipes so they made up their own, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cake.
It was delicious, including the frosting. I should say that outright. Their joy in presenting was helpfully contagious. Unfortunately, I have a few issues with germs and food cleanliness. The decision to decorate the cake with fragments of potentially poisonous bits of chopped up rubber snake, cars, and other well used toys was a stretch for me. We didn’t have to guess the theme (which is good because I wouldn’t have figured it out). The birthday man and I were treated to a verbal tour of the cake with great pride and enthusiasm.
Look at the cake. Do you get it? We’ve got everything.
Look. See that brown thing? It’s actually a hat from one of our toys, but here it’s the poop. Get it? It’s a farm!
Don’t forget to show them the pee.
Yeah, see that? There was a trailing blob of yellow food coloring in one corner. That’s the pee. It is definitely not a farm without pee.
There was a car, people, fields. The cake was chocolate. Brown was the color chosen for the icing. Earthy tones all around. Coconut and walnuts for texture.
Doesn’t it look like the snake is actually crawling through the cake?
And did you see the sheep guts? That’s what the red is with all the lumps. Blood and guts.
Isn’t it great? We knew you’d like it.
It really was delicious. I removed the germ infested toys and poisonous rubber snake bits as soon as possible and shook my head at the comradery and pleasure they never tire of finding in all things uncouth. It reminded me of Father’s Day. After all the cards and sweet things, one child ran for his gift. He returned with a blindfold, a nasty concoction he’d made, and the sincere belief that would be fun for his father to drink his recipe and guess the ingredients. Behold the man.
Boy two’s love affair with the bike continues. “You don’t really see anything from a car,” he says. “On your bike you see everything. All kinds of stuff you never noticed before.” The family was headed to a country park about ten minutes away by car. Boy two invited me to bike there with him instead. He chattered while we biked. Pointed out things here and there, or told me things he’d seen other times on his bike, most of it followed by further praise of the glory of bikes. The chatter alone was worth the price of admission, but here are some of the things we would have missed from the car.
I wish I knew what these flowers were called, I said.
Baby shoes, he said. They should be called baby shoes. Don’t you just think of baby shoes when you look at them? I’m calling them baby shoes. That’s exactly what they look like.
And then later . . .
Look, Mom! More baby shoes.
Like every boy worth his salt, Boy two gazed into the water convinced he saw signs of living things. Big, unknown, and wild things in shadows and ripples. If we hadn’t been on a mission to show a sibling his increased manly biking speed, I might have lost him here gazing at the creek for the afternoon. (Gazing would have been ten minutes. After that he would have started getting wet.)
We really could not believe it when we came upon this baby skunk. The mother was nowhere in sight, so we felt free to put our bikes down and watch for a little while. He/she was exploring a ditch along a well cared for lawn. After a bit little one ambled back into the metal drainage pipe we assumed was also home.
photo and fly compliments of morguefile. None of ours would sign a photo release.
Boy one is taller than the rest of us and hoping to grow more. Looming manhood seems so inevitable, unstoppable and near that I forget how much he is still a boy. The moments he reminds me are treasures. His boyhood feels like a work of art, an exquisite castle carved in sand with the waves about to reach shore.
As noted before, this son was born with a serious approach to life. All realizations are immense. All perceptions of reality are carried with the weight of unquestionable truth. All thoughts, developing or otherwise, are generously shared. The boy who doesn’t joke had this to say last week.
Did I tell you what I have Girl one doing to help me with chores these days? he asked. Well, I think it’s really helping, he said. It’s helping Girl one, but I think it’s helping Misty too. Girl one is reading to her. Every night. She brings a book out to the barn, sits on the rail and reads. Misty loves it. I mean, I don’t think she understands the story, but she hears Girl one’s voice. She feels loved.
There was the smallest question in his voice. A tiny part of him not 100% sure but what the pony might understand at least a little of the story.
The waves are rolling in to cover up the castles but they’re not here yet. He’s taught himself to juggle. Eggs, he confessed are calling his name. How many might he have and where could he practice?
Girl two invited me to play hangman but there was a twist, invented she explained by Girl one who had decided that hangman made no sense. How would you hang a person one body part at a time? she said when I asked. I’d never considered the question but her solution was delightful. Do yourself a favor and try this version of hangman sometime this weekend.
- Get a pencil, and eraser and a pen (pen is optional)
- Use only a pencil to draw a full body stick figure hanging from the gallows
- Use pen to draw a shark with open mouth and teeth below the body.
- Choose word or phrase and begin game.
- For every missed letter, erase one body part from the stick figure. Redraw the body part inside the mouth of the shark (preferably with pen for extra drama). Losing players may watch themselves be eaten bite by delicious bite.
The only thing the flies missed seeing was the lawn. Boy two mowed for me. Walking by the next day I saw patches missed all over the place. He doesn’t drink. What had he been thinking? I looked again. All thirty or so unmowed intermittent grass patches were full of daisies. My artist hadn’t missed them, he had seen them!
Photo by jppi, compliments of morguefile.com
Sunday around noon we looked out the window. Locust tree seeds were flying. For more than half an hour they literally filled the air, seeds floating like snowflakes everywhere you looked. I thought of the massive locust at the corner of the bee yard. Myself, I would have been depressed. Tempted to a little melancholy. My year’s work, floating off so quickly and all to where? The point was planting a tree. But what were the chances? It’s not like the wind had a plan with all those drifting, wafting little bits of possibility it was throwing around like confetti.
Later I needed fresh air and alone time. My Adirondack chairs aren’t here yet so I got help to carry the worn blue recliner from the house out to the grass underneath the red maple. I brought my notebook and some books. Girl two saw and took off running. I was reaching for my book when she appeared, her own book in hand, climbing up over the arm of the chair.
What are you doing? I asked.
Snuggling, she said grinning, confident she was pleasing me.
I came out here to read, I said.
Me too, she said. So far I’m here. She pointed to a spot on the page of her book. Would you like to read to me?
I took a deep breath and lied. Of course, I said.
We read and laughed until the lie was true.
There is a place inside me, I said by way of moving on to parting, that is just for you. It is a very happy part of me because it is a space belonging to and completely filled by loving you.
She did not pause to picture the place unless she pictured it very quickly.
How much of you is it? she asked.
That’s a tricky question, I said giving myself time to do the math (four kids, my husband, everything else I care about…).
Is my space half? she wanted to know.
No, I said. I watched her face fall and something in me was called forth. No it isn’t half. Your space is bigger than the moon.
That’s not possible, she said trying to hide her delight. That’s bigger than you are.
Ah, but love doesn’t work that way. It’s magical. Love is bigger than we are. Much, much bigger than we are. The spaces for it have to be extremely big to fit it in.
After that she left and I didn’t feel sad for the tree anymore. I wondered where I could buy wizard suits for the children. I feel them sometimes, intentionally or inadvertently, siphoning blood from my veins, asking to share my tiniest spaces. For everybody’s sake, there are times to guard the spaces. There are also times to let them in. To let them wave their enchanted wands. The ones that makes us so much better than we started out to be.
With the family away, I wrote Friday until 6:00pm in order to earn the right to drive the tractor until 8:00pm. I ran the bushhog on our far field while keeping a close on eye on the ground for rocks and creatures. Last year I stopped just short of a partridge on her eggs. No partridges were disturbed by me this time, but I saw a painted turtle and jumped off to move him out of harm’s way. As I bent down, instead of curling up inside his shell, he ran. I got back on the tractor laughing. What if all turtles can run, but it’s one of those things that just isn’t done? What if this one was running because he was too young (or too socially awkward) to know better?
Boy one’s barn chores were uneventful except for Misty, who snuck in behind me to the sheep barn. The children love the pony. Boy one talks to her, grabs her mane, cajoles her, puts his arm around her, pulls her, and generally does whatever he wants with her like she’s his sister. Misty and I don’t have that kind of relationship. I spoke, she ignored. I pushed, she rolled her eyes. I didn’t try pulling because it seemed ill advised. After ten minutes, I went and got the whip, which I didn’t plan to use but I wasn’t going to tell her that. She saw me come in the barn and stand in the corner. She glared at me and took one deliberate step at a time toward the door. Before she left she turned and barred every one of her senior citizen horse teeth at me.
Outside she walked around to her stall which was not in great shape. I pointed out to her, while cleaning up her stall with a close eye on her, that the crap she was standing in was thanks to her boy who could do no wrong, whereas the clean floor with fresh straw was thanks now to me.
The rest of my weekend retreat was writing, plus a birthday lunch for a friend. I got drenched doing Saturday night’s chores. It felt like a fitting baptism for the new hope I was feeling. I gave Misty a night off on her diet so she could stay outside to eat all night with the cows. For my part, I found myself a good documentary (on sugar!) and settled in to watch with not a stitch of laundry folding attempted.
The gang returned safe and sound to a house with no electricity and one roll of toilet paper. Everyone took it in stride for the hour of waiting. On the camping trip, the family found clay, discovered a cliff they could climb, watched a raccoon try to steal their food in the middle of the day, saw a porcupine on their hike, and swam in the still frigid lake. A resounding success all around.