Monday, August 29, 2011

Losing Our Grip

We all know that our physical lives are fragile. The challenge is to know it and live well with it; to find that middle place between denial and morbidity.

On our way home from an unusually grueling playdate a few weeks ago, the boys and I saw fire trucks parked at the swimming hole a few blocks from our house. A news helicopter hovered overhead. Well, thanks--or no thanks--to the internet, I didn't have to wonder for long what had happened. The news channel's website said they were searching for a 14 year-old boy who'd disappeared under the water while swimming with his friends. Ten minutes after I stopped hearing the helicopter, the site was updated with the news that they'd found the boy's body. I was weepy for the rest of the day, thinking about his family.

Several years ago when we lived in Bend, the pastor of the church we attended and his wife Kathy had a teenage daughter who was battling leukemia. I remember attending a prayer time for the daughter, and one of the women in the church asked Kathy how she dealt with the uncertainty of her daughter being in and out of remission.

Her answer came back to me as I mulled all this over the past few weeks. Kathy stretched out her arm with her palm up and her fingers open. "I hold her lightly," she said.

Kathy knew that her daughter belonged not to her but to God. We all do. And every day of health that we enjoy and every breath that we take is his good gift. And rather than live my life in fear, I would do well to receive his gifts with thankfulness--and to hold them lightly.


This seems an appropriate place to note that our friend Becky Ward died recently of complications arising from surgery. Becky was too shy to comment here on the blog, but she often made my day by sending me personal comments on my posts via email. I know that her friends and family, particularly her children and grandchildren, will be missing her until the day they see her again.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's All in Where You Put the EmPHAsis

Willem just learned the phrase "practical joke." But he doesn't say "practical JOKE."

No, he says "PRACtical joke." As opposed to an impractical one, I suppose.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Reading

Does your local library have a summer reading program? Read books, log your hours, get prizes? Ours does, and since both of my kids are motivated beyond all reason by prizes, they wanted to sign up for it.

They went to it right away, hunkering down with their stacks of books. A preternatural calm settled over the house. The only sound was the rustle of turning pages. It was a miracle. I was so happy I almost cried. OK, maybe I did cry just a little.

Within three days they had earned their first prize (a Japanese fan) and it was all downhill from there. Keeping track of how long it took to read each book and writing a little summary turned out to be a huge pain. Willem wakes up before everyone else and reads in bed, often re-reading a book several times, which we couldn't count. He probably read several more hours than the 900 minutes we officially logged for him.

They did most of their reading to themselves, but I did give them a break by reading aloud one of my childhood favorites, The Pushcart War. It made me want to go back to New York.

Obsessing over favorite books hindered their progress somewhat. Even though it was old for them, both boys pored over Doug TenNapel's Ghostopolis for weeks. Willem couldn't follow the story very well, but he loved the ghoulish drawings. And the potty humor.

The defining literary moment of our summer, though, has been the discovery of Calvin and Hobbes. Our library has only one of the individual books and one of the enormous collections that spans several years. We've already renewed it once, which means the boys have spent the last several weeks fighting over it. They've taken to "calling" it to save it when they get up to eat or go to the bathroom, just like my sisters and I used to do with our favorite chair when we were kids. Yes, it's provoked many battles, but it did provide four hours of log-able reading time per child, so that's something.

It took a few weeks to get Nels to stop calling the characters "Kevin and Hubbies." Nels gets a lot of the humor and understands the devices Watterson uses to show what is "real" and what is imaginary in Calvin's world. He's also getting some great vocabulary.

Willem, on the other hand, misses a lot of the jokes and reads the whole thing in deadly earnest. I can't imagine that failing to take Calvin with a grain of salt is putting some fairly oddball ideas into his head, but he hasn't done anything too crazy yet.

When it's Willem's turn for the book, it's "Mom, listen to this" every few minutes. It gets old, but his clear little voice reading Calvin's dialogue is like having the character right there in the flesh in the room with me. And the way he says Susie (Soo-see) is so charming that I can hardly bear to correct him.

When Nels finished up his summer reading and Willem still had 90 minutes to go, it threw Willem into such deep despair (and he threw such a huge fit) that I almost decided the program hadn't been worth it. But they both finished, and now each boy has a garish yellow t-shirt and a stronger-than-ever reading habit to show for his efforts. It's good.