The Last Puff

The Wilfahrt dragon, Puff, who is incredibly un-magical in broad day light, has taken a nosedive into the great garbage can in the sky. Bye-bye freaky green paper-mache' creature with teeth made out of egg crates and tufted corn stalks spray painted silver for scales. Big Man, the creator, was surprisingly unsentimental about his 2010 Halloween piece de resistance. With a shrug he said, "Making him was the fun part." Oh yes, the labor, the hours spent sketching, creating, painting, contrapting, the weirdness of this thing attached to our kitchen chair for what seemed like months isn't exactly how I characterize fun . But it was never about me. And now Puff is waiting to be taken away. Currently perched not-quite-so in the garbage can that gave him life, I realize Big Man is right.

I will not walk out and retrieve him to return with tears streaming down my face.

I will let go.


This time.

How to get the most bang for your buck.

For $20, rent a sea kayak and give it a go. It's fun. Ok, only kind-of fun. Truly, it depends on your company. But, in a small amount of time, a lot can happen. This makes the return on your investment high. If you have spent any time reading this blog, you are well aware of our history, but consider this example anyway and learn from our mistakes.

Don't take a Thing who has well-versed knowledge of ocean creatures and another Thing who likes rules and is not afraid to repeat them, often, when they are not being followed. It becomes even more interesting when your kayak has a broken rudder which makes the boat really hard to turn. Since you know how to paddle, it shouldn't be so hard. But maybe, just maybe, you will be too distracted. Thing 2 will wail about getting a closer look than he really wanted at the hammerhead shark certainly (NOT) lurking below the surface. As you bob and drift along the coastline in the warm June sun, Big Man will try to gently knock your boat in the right direction by physically running his kayak into yours. Both Things take this as some sort of war declaration. Soon a sort of messy oar battle will begin. The parents will stare at each other helplessly. One parent will laugh and the other will pray for some sort of divine intervention. Lobster boats will come and go and with them a constant stream of wakes. These are supposed to be avoided at all costs according to a brief ( 30 seconds) "instructional" session. Thing 1 will have tears streaming down her face because it will be clear that all sort of rules are being broken. "Lost at sea! We are lost at sea!" might become a mantra even though the shore line is clearly in view.

In kayaks built for two, one hour was spent on the water on a beautiful day in Coastal Maine. The shore was barely 15 feet away, and yet clearly we are gifted at wringing out copious amounts of drama in a setting worthy of a post card.

Some (my mom and dad) will say Things come by it naturally (I wasn't just handed that outstanding female drama student award, thank you), others (Big Man) will simply shrug, and I will likely forget this whole thing. At least until the next opportunity for adventure presents itself. Probably, I will reflect too briefly at what we have to offer to the situation at hand. At the very least, I will think, we often get more than we bargain for--history is on our side with that one.

7 and almost 2

Thing 2 got to try his hand at big brotherhood. Toddler cousin is nearing 2, ripening well into his new roll. This means frequent exclamations of "No!", those wonderful assertions of independence at inopportune moments. We all know it's the parents who are put out. The toddler could care less. Thing 2 handled this tumultuous point in his cousin's life with skills that rivaled an expert CEO, vaudeville entertainer, and top-notch little league coach. Stern reprimands could be heard when Toddler was closing in on dangerous terrain, wild squeals of glee errupted during seemingly unending games of chase, and praise was lauded when Toddler followed directions. Thing 2 clearly learned none of this from me. Toddlers were hard for me. Probably because I can't rid myself of ' it's my way or the highway' mindset.

At any rate, it made me think again of David Brook's recent assertion that we need to be more concerned about raising people who can get along than the types of vocations they pursue and where they pursue them.

My time in Maine gave me a small glimpse of what two boys may become. I liked what I saw. And just for a moment, I could relax.

Lizards in one fell swoop.

Here it is! The entire collection of The Lizard Chronicles. If you are caught up, just skip down to the final addition, Part V or The Burial.
Otherwise, pick up where you left off.
The Lizard Chronicles: Part I or Of Lizards and Boys
The Lizard Chronicles: Part II or It only took 3 days
The Lizard Chronicles:Part III or It Only Took One Week and 4 Days.
The Lizard Chronicles: Part IV or He really is dead. Now.

The Lizard Chronicles: Part V or The Burial.

The "official" burial occured, finally, 3 days after the certain demise. We went around the dinner table and shared things we loved about Skitters.

Thing 1:''He was interesting to look at, he changed colors with the heat lamp, and yeah, he was just...interesting to watch."

From Big Man: "He brought us together, Ben. We had to work hard to catch those rogue crickets. I liked spending that time with you."

Ben: "That's not about Skitters, dad. That's about us. What did you like about Skitters."

Big Man: "Oh, well...he skittered well."

Ben: "I just like lizards. And his heatlamp/night light brought me comfort. I liked having him in my room at night. Being a lizard."

Me: "Skitters was a cool blue-green under the light. And he looked so peaceful and contemplative while sunning himself. Plus, he brought you so much joy, Ben. Even though that's not about Skitters himself, it was a happy by-product of him being in your life."

He opted to flush him rather than bury him. I care not to share the debate that precluded this decision. Let's just say I was happy we were done eating.

At bedtime I was surprised to find a few more tears.

"I miss him, mom. I miss his light, I miss looking at him sitting on his tree bark. And not everyone can sleep with a lizard in their room."

"True. It's just one more item to add to the very long list of things that makes you special, Ben."

There was a small giggle. "Thanks, mom. I love you."


The world is making me crazy.

Michelle Bachmann has officially announced her canidacy for president of the free world, the rate of suicide in the armed forces is at an all-time high, more states than not do not recognize same-sex relationships as marriage, and billions of dollars are being spent on a war that cannot be won. This is not the world I have been working on for my kids.

I recently saught counsel from a zen-like neighbor (thank you Amy!) who reminded me that Mother Theresa's actions were small and that all the little ripples can make waves. Our actions, our intentions, our presence and involvement in these crucial conversations do mattter even when we can't see or feel the results directly.

And this leads to what I am most interested in--conversations with people from all sides about what really matters without hyperbole and finger pointing. Just an exchange of heartfelt concern about the world in which we are making for our kids.

Another frustration I feel is the inability to have the conversation. We have labelled each other to death and people don't want to talk. I was once told , "You liberals just want everything to be fair." Do you think that person is interested in an exchange of ideas? With our feathers ruffled and minds closed before our mouths are open, how will progress be made?

I want to talk and be heard. I also want to listen. I can't be the only one, can I?

The Lizard Chronicles: Part IV or He really is

Ok, ok. We thought he was dead. He was dead by all appearances. The tears were sincere, the pain was felt, and a few hours later we went back to the room to begin some sort of burial process and Skitters... had skittered away. He was gone! Hiding in the terrain under some leaves, we found him barely hanging on by a thread. I could not believe the drama of this day. With pure excitement Ben exclaimed, "He lives!"

Great! I managed to purchase the one lizard with super-reptillian powers. Resurrected from reptillian death, this lizard was messing with my son's emotions. How long could we do this?

48 hours to be exact. Lizard hospice care ensued. Dx: Dehydration and anorexia. Rx: D5W 1/2 cc TID. In layman's terms, this meant we force-fed Skitters by dropping a cricket into his mouth with a chopstick. Ben held the lizard while Bob dropped the cricket. Ben then had to close the lizard's mouth to encourage him to chew. 5 droplets of sugar water were gently sent down his little gullet. They did all this twice a day until Sunday morning when it was clear (stiff tail and curled up claws) that Skitters really would no longer skitter.

At one point Ben felt Bob was too involved and Skitters was no longer his, but he soldiered on with his caretaking. On Sunday morning when the result of their efforts were clear, Ben was surprisingly mature about the whole thing. " I got to hold him a lot. We tried. You know, mom, everything dies."

Hmmm...where were the streaming tears, the wailing, the need for comfort? Oh right. We already did that. No need to repeat, I guess. Saying good-bye is helpful, and he got to do that. It will take a while for him to realize how lucky he was.



The Lizard Chronicles: Part III or It only took 1 week and 4 days.

At 5:15 a.m.this morning, we experienced the death of a dream. Skitters puffed his last breath, sloughed off a little more skin, and closed his eyes. There will be no more skittering by this little guy. Around bedtime (of course), Ben noticed Skitters seemed still. His breathing was slow and the little guy wouldn't, you know, skitter.

An uncle I have claims the internet is a world wide waste of time. Here is where he and I part ways. How parents survived without vats of knowledge at their fingertips is beyond me. With impending doom, we culled the masses of information regarding anole lizards. Who knew many lizards are color blind and may not see their food or be able to find their water dishes? Another factoid expressed concern over the unknown origins of your lizard. If by chance it is "wild caught", it may not adapt well to captivity. Lizard forums (yes, there are many!) provided all sorts of nuanced caretaking ideas for your particular lizard. None of this research was done prior to the purchase, of course. I just spent $4.99 on certain heartbreak because I was ignorant.

My suggestion to you is to not mess with the heart of a boy and stay away from lizards. Heartfelt tears at 9:00 p.m. as your kid lies sentinel next to the lizard's home are hard to take. Even harder is watching a grown man attempt emergency lizard resucitation at 10:30 p.m. when it is clear the critter is going down. Just so you know, Big Man's batting average for humans is way better than anything he's tried reviving from Petco. Finally, the 5:00 a.m. cry of "He died! Skitters died!" is not a great way to begin the first Friday of summer break.

There will be favorite movies playing today, treats offered if his appetite returns, copious snuggle time, and a promise for Skitters II after summer travels are complete.

Yes, we are dumb. But makes us do crazy things.

I have been up to something.....

Ever since I heard a radio interview with the owner of a restaurant who won a prestigious James Beard Award for being the best place to eat in the United States, I have been pondering the owner's comments. Some of them may surprise you. They did me and I have been stewing over them, bad pun intended, ever since.

One of my favorite parts about writing is that it takes you to places you never intended to go...and then often right back to where you began.

Another thing I like about writing is finding ways to link things that may seem incongruous on the surface. Often, I will read something, tuck it away for later, drive the kids somewhere, hear someone on the radio discuss something else and then think, "Well, isn't that kind of the same point so-and-so was trying to make? " So I have to scavenge for a scrap of paper and a dull pencil because I forgot my journal again. I come back to it in an hour, a day, or even a few weeks, and suddenly it seems to work. I really don't think I am comparing apples to oranges when bringing together David Brooks and Danny Meyer, but I guess you can let me know what you think.

Thanks, Winona360 and Kate Carlson, for giving me time and space for my voice.

And here is what I came up with:

Let the games begin!

It's over- the school year is done. We now have 217 stubby pencils with well-worn erasers, 32 dried out markers and the equivalent of 2 reams of paper culled from 5 notebooks. Yesterdays promise is tomorrow's recycling.

With equal parts excitement and uncertainty,we will cruise through mornings where precision is less important and personal desires finally win out...mostly.

The break will be good for all of us.

A mirror image

I embarked upon a work out class that has me out the door at ten minutes to six (a.m.!) and this means the kids and Big Man are on their own to ready themselves for the day. With the number of school days rapidly dwindling I knew that if it was rough, it wouldn't be for long. It's felt weird not being around for the bulk of the morning rush hour, but there is one thing I like. I get home and they are dressed and visibly relieved that I get to see them before their bus arrives. I get smiles and yelps of "Mommy!" and big hugs. I was gone one hour. But it's funny how little tweaks to your day can throw you off...or on. Long ago (nine and half years), my mother-in-law described how I phsically 'lit up' in the presence of my new infant daughter. It's fun and humbling and over-whelming to know it works both ways. I am soaking it in. Thing 2 has some time, but the ten year old is brewing a much different pot that will spill over at any time.


Thing 2 is a favorite of the Dog. She curls up next to him, often under the covers near his feet. This is generally a good thing, but Thing 2 likes bedtime snacks. Dog is a major hog. She will eat tubes of chapstick and gnaw away at recycled yogurt cups if a trace of yogurt can be detected. And while we discourage eating snacks in bed...I think it's been well-established that Thing 2 is, among many things, independent.

A recent foray to the kitchen found him producing a sandwich which he covertly (he thought) took back to his room. Minutes later, I heard some scuffling from above since I had retreated to the basement. I came up later where I found Big Man making a sandwhich while smiling.

"Did you hear the scuffle?"

"Well, I was curious, yes. But I figured you'd take care of it."

"Dog got the sandwhich he'd made for himself, and suddenly she slinks out his room while he's yelling 'Go away you stupid bitch dog'!"


Dog frequently gets into trouble, but I promise I don't call her a bitch. Out loud anyway. There are claims to be made about the definition of a female dog, but, you know, I am not in grade school anymore. I am an adult.


These are the kinds of things we aren't supposed to giggle about in front of the kid to perpetuate the problem. Instead, we giggled away in the kitchen while we left Thing 2 to fume and munch in solitude. We could defend ourselves with technicalities...but why bother?


I am going here!

It's funny how the universe works. I have been looking for months for the right thing at the right time. Just yesterday, a writer I know told me about this other writer's website and it led to me finding this, which seems perfect for me. In reality, nothing is perfect so I will just bask for a few more moments today and move on to the realities of life.

Madeline Island is magical. I have many good memories of this place. We took Thing 1 there as an infant on our first real trip as a three-some. Much later, our foursome had a great camping experience which included swimming and biking and mosquitoes and Harry Potter Number 7 and more swimming.

I cannot imagine the place on my own terms. I feel like a kid who is headed away to camp for the first time- anxious, excited, and wondering what I have gotten myself into. I hope my mom will send me a note.