Here is a quick hello and an almost-summertime update. The crush of the spring semester is over, so we are all relaxing a bit – except that mom is rushing full tilt into organizing mode now that there is more time. The picture above struck me as perfect for the boys’ activity these days; they have been planting seeds (apple and kiwi, and others, I believe) and watering them, and digging holes to the center of the earth, and digging up treasures in the driveway. I have been keeping out of the garden this spring but I did promise the boys that we could ask Gramp if he would help them to plant a few things when he and Granny come to visit soon.
When will I ever learn
To live in God? When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?
Very often I recall those lines from a song by Van Morrison. The bruised reed he will not break; the smoldering wick he will not put out. These are comforting words to consider afterward.
Here is a lovely little painting by my five-year-old, of a storm at sea, seen from the beach. The pink is sand blowing around, and the teal at top is the wind.
Some parenting vignettes:
(Wailing from upstairs)
PARENT: What happened?
CHILD 1: (Wails) He hit me!
PARENT, to CHILD 2: Did you hit him?
CHILD 2: (In a scandalized voice) I did not hit him! (In normal tones) I sat on him.
PARENT, to CHILD 3: Where are your pants?
CHILD 3: In the kitchen.
PARENT: Why are they in the kitchen?
CHILD 3: Ummmm. I don’t know.
On a different day,
PARENT, to CHILD 3: Where are your pants??
CHILD 3: Ummmm. Over dere.
PARENT: Why are they not on?
CHILD 3: Ummmm. (Picks up pants.) Can you help me?
On a recent birthday
PARENT: Well, how does it feel to be another year older?
CHILD: (Considers) Some of my fingers are hot. These four, on my left hand.
Oh my, if only I could remember the many similar vignettes. They say that parenting keeps you young – maybe it’s because it keeps you laughing.
Little Man got the third of three casts removed this week, and had his broken arm pronounced thoroughly healed. Happily the three casts were all for the same injury, not separate ones.
It all began not quite a week before Christmas. I turned around one day and was shocked to see Little Man not seated, but standing on the back of the sofa. He was shocked to see me see him, and before he could make a concerted move, his feet suddenly slipped from under him, his bottom hit the back of the sofa, and he fell straight backwards as if he were falling off the side of a boat. I heard a yelp and little cry and he bounded to his feet with an expression of pain, holding his wrist.
If you are a parent, you probably have experienced anxious concern replaced by deep irritation, once you find that your child has not, thank heavens, seriously injured himself, after he put himself in the way of injury by goofing off. Also you can imagine the lecture that followed: “Why do you think we tell you not to stand on furniture?!”
Little Man seemed to be in real pain, although his arm looked fine. I iced it and told him to rest it for a bit. Both the next day and the day following the pain didn’t seem to diminish, so I took him to the doctor.
Little Man cheerily got himself weighed and measured and temperatured. He is three feet high and possessed of a cheery self-confidence and curiosity, and he and the physician’s assistant hit it off at once. She asked him what had happened, and he replied that he had fallen off of the sofa onto his wrist. When? she asked.
“Oh,” he said lightly, his eyes traveling along the ceiling, “it was years ago.”
I coughed. “Tuesday.”
The physician’s assistant laughed, and examined his arm. “Can you wiggle your fingers? Squeeze my hand. Does it hurt here? Here? How about here?” Little Man looked her in the eye and responded confidently to each query; but as she inched down toward his wrist his face got a little tight, and his “No” s turned to shaky “Y-es!” s.
She said she would send us out for an x-ray. While she was away telephoning, Little Man and I pulled out an anatomy book that was in the examining room. Little Man was fascinated by the skeletons.
The physician’s assistant came back with a few more instructions. Little Man put his stockinged feet companionably on her knees and looked at her shyly. If course this melted her even further. “They asked me if I thought you could stay still on an examining table,” she confided to Little Man,”and I said that I was quite sure that you could!”
On to the imaging clinic. We waited a bit and finally an x-ray tech came to fetch us. He was pretty surly. I didn’t know whether this was his normal disposition, or whether he was having a bad day, or what. At any rate, he fetched Little Man and he and another tech took him into the x-ray room.
A short time later they came back, and this time the tech’s face was all smiles. “That doctor’s name is Bruce,” Little Man told me in a stage whisper. I guess Little Man’s sunny disposition rubbed off on him.
We waited a bit to get the x-ray analysis from the doctor’s office and soon heard back. Little Man’s arm was broken – one bone near the wrist was clearly fractured, and the other appeared to have hair line crack. Goodness gracious.
On to the bone and joint clinic. Little Man was cheerful as ever. The receptionists at the bone and joint clinic were very taken with him. (“He’s so cute!” Little Man never reacts much to this statement. He hears it so often, he may think it is just something grown-ups say.) They asked him his name. He told it, and spelled it for good measure, which caused them to melt into puddles.
The doctor asked Little Man to tell him what had happened. Little Man had it down pat now. “On Tuesday,” he said precisely, “I fell off the back of the sofa onto my arm, and broke it.”
As we sat in the examining room waiting for the cast to be put on, Little Man performed some break-dance-like moves on the examining table, giving me some anxiety lest he break another bone.
“Mom,” he said, “how do people float in the air?”
I considered for a bit, then mentioned hang gliding, and parasailing, and also hot-air balloons.
Later Little Man caught sight of a poster depicting several views of a skeleton, and was absorbed in that for a while. “What if all a person’s bones fell off?” he asked, looking at the skeleton. I said that I didn’t think that could happen very easily.
Soon a young man in scrubs came to fetch Little Man to put his cast on for him.
“I know a lot about bones,” Little Man said as he trotted beside him.
“Is that right?” the young man said. “Tell me what you know about bones.”
“I know,” said Little Man,”that they could all fall off!”
Maybe it was a slow day at the bone clinic, but soon, Little Man and the young man were surrounded by a little crowd of young ladies in scrubs, looking on (“Oh, he’s so cute!” they whispered to one another. They gave him candy.)
“Have you been good? Is Santa going to bring you lots of presents?” asked the young man working on his cast.
“W-e-ll,” Little Man hesitated, shooting a look in his mother’s direction. The scrubs-clad crowd burst into laughter at this, and Little Man grinned.
On our way out, we met a doctor in a shirt and tie, who put his hands on his hips and looked at Little Man.
“Well, little man,” he said. “Is Santa Claus coming?”
Little Man looked at him in silence for a moment.
“On Christmas,” he replied at last, in the tone of one who thought it behooved him to clarify a small but important point. Everyone knows that in the week before Christmas Santa is quite busy at the North Pole.
To condense the rest of the story, after that came three more visits- two to get new casts, and finally one to get the last one off – and Little Man heard many more times how cute he is, and got stickers, and candy, and a Valentine.
So what is the moral of the story? If you climb on furniture and break your arm you will get lots of candy? Well – let’s hope that’s not the one Little Man learned but rather that people are good-hearted and kind to children; and that breaking one’s arm hurts like the dickens, and is not worth idly doing again!
“Stay away from us if you don’t want to get sick! We have a viper!”
The day before the snow came, two of the boys came down with a “viper.” Poor boys; I found one draped motionless and silent on an armchair, and another fast asleep and rosy cheeked on the sofa.
“Dad says this viper is really catching.”
As usual, Dad was right – the next day, when the snow hit, three of us fell one after the other, like dominoes. However, two of the boys were already better, and two of us weren’t sick until the evening, so we got some good sledding in on the first day. The snow was too cold to pack to make a snowman – that was the very first thing our four-year-old wanted to try. But the sledding was awesome.
Our back yard is a hill of four tiers – that is, it slopes, then levels out briefly, four times before you hit the woods. I wasn’t sure whether a sled would stop at each tier, or just keep going – it turns out it keeps going, and fast! It was fun, for the oldest and I, but not safe for the littlest ones, so they sledded down the side yard.
The littles reacted differently to sledding. I brought the two middle ones on a ride down the hill and into the driveway. The smaller hopped out ready for more, but the other was silent and a little solemn.
“Did you like that?” I asked him.
“Y-es,” he said uncertainly. Then he looked at me with a troubled expression, and said, “But I wasn’t having fun.”
“Oh! Was it too scary?” I asked. He nodded. “It is a little scary,” I said.
That little one left to set off stomp rockets (a wonderful invention, and a present from Gramp and Granny for Christmas) in the back yard, while the littlest ones and I kept on.
They loved it. Both spilled out once; and another time, the bigger boy in front spilled out, leaving a pile of snow and his two-year-old brother in the sled. I looked at the latter, to see how he’d taken this latest ride. He beamed up at me.
“We crashing!” he said happily.
While the boys were busy in the snow I took a ride or two solo down the big hill. The first time, I ran into a couple of briars that had looked more harmless than they proved to be. But I thought I’d smashed them down pretty well, so that they wouldn’t hurt me the second time. What I didn’t reckon on was that the second time I went down, I’d go much further than the first time, since the trail was packed; and I ended up in a much worse briar patch (see above.) Ouch.
We were snowed in for five days. When I told my brother in Minnesota how many inches of snow it was that shut down our fair city in the mountains, he laughed loud and long. We hardly ever get snow here, so when we do it’s a big deal. As a North Carolina parent pointed out to me when we first moved here, “They may laugh at us in Minnesota. But there, if you slide off the road, you aren’t liable to fall very far. That isn’t the case here.” A good point.
Now the warmer weather is back again, and we don’t need to light the stove anymore. The warmer weather is nice, but it really is lovely to build a fire and feel it warm the house – and to smell woodsmoke outside from the neighbors’ chimneys and our own.
“There will be many beautiful lights [this Christmas]. You – be a light. Be the face of Christ for others.”
Fr. A. said this way back in the beginning of Advent. A Saturday or two later I was back in evening Mass again, seated behind a tall man. He had snow white hair, and wore a bone white sweater. Though I was directly behind, I could see that he actively participated in the Mass, singing the songs, and so on. When it came time for the sign of peace he turned around. His face was tan and deeply wrinkled and his eyes were brown, and he gave me the most beautiful, kindly smile. There was no judgement in his face, no kind of mask – just an expression of kindness and goodness. His look warmed me inside, and the warmth lasted a long time. For Christ plays in ten thousand places, says Hopkins’ wonderful poem; lovely in eyes and limbs not his, to the Father, through the features of men’s faces. I wish I could be more like that man!
Merry Christmas, my dear people. May your ham’s glaze be beauteous and your potatoes done to a turn, and may your children (and grandchildren) eat their vegetables without complaining one bit.