Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Light a candle

As a public library cataloger, I get to look at lots of different books covering a vast array of subjects. Some of the most interesting are books are the ones aimed at elementary school kids: they cover the basics and whet the appetite. I enjoy working on a batch of Tween books, especially when the subject matter is animals or geography.

I worked on insect books this morning. As always, I learned something new. Fact: earthworms have bristles on their skin to help anchor their bodies to the dirt. As a gardener, I love earthworms (despite their creepy appearance). As a human being, I'm drawn to their vulnerability.

I have a habit of rescuing neighborhood earthworms in the morning after the sprinkler systems have shut off. I find their struggles to scale the curb heartbreaking. They'll never make it, of course. They lie writhing on the concrete, increasing in desperation until either a bird picks them off, a car crushes them, or they dry out in the relentless sun.

When I'm walking my dog in the morning I can't pass one by without trying to help. After a rain storm, it's impossible. I have to set a limit, and then turn away. I feel like the woman in the starfish parable.

But, to paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, I'd rather light a candle than curse the darkness.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This is the sound of your kids on caffeine

Sunday morning, on the way to church:

Kid #1: "Do you think I could drive the van? 'Cause it's got a bigger engine than the Toyota. I think I could handle it pretty well. I think I could handle a stick shift, 'cause I drive one of those when I'm gaming. It seems pretty easy. You drive two footed, right? And then you shift when you get a certain speed. Hey look, a Mini Cooper! Do you think I could afford a used Mini Cooper? When I get a job, I mean. The guy down the block has a classic car for sale. $3000! I think that's too much, don't you? Of course, it is made of steel. I'll bet if I crashed that car it wouldn't even get a dent. So can we go driving tonight? A Honda Civic! That's my car, right there. I want one of those. Are you guys going to buy me a car? Are you going to help me? I think I could save $5000 over the summer and get a good car. Why are you smiling? You think I couldn't do it? I could totally do it. Or I could get a Yugo like in that movie last night. I wonder what kind of engine a Yugo has. Like a 2 cylinder? ..."

Kid #2: "Would you rather be shot in the head or the heart? 'Cause a head shot would be fast but messy. But a heart shot might take longer to die. And a shot in the lung would take a long time. I'd rather be shot than drown. Or suffocate. What if you fell from a four story building and got all kinds of internal injuries and then it took you like four days to die? That would suck. Would you rather have a stroke or a heart attack? Would you rather be eaten by a grizzly bear or killed by a human? Oh, a Corvette! I'm going to save all my money and get a Corvette when I grow up. I know they aren't good for the environment, but that's my car. That's mine. No, you can't talk me out of it. No, I don't want a hybrid. Those aren't cool, Mom. Come on! Would you rather burn or freeze to death? ..."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Clash of the titans

We have a few very strong personalities in our family. Last night, three of them smacked right into each other.

With the onset of puberty, TeenGuy has moved into a new phase. No longer content to sit and observe things with his old soul eyes, now he wants what he wants when he wants it. He's a master at pestering. He loves to negotiate. Often, he'll bargain. If he doesn't get what he wants, he'll retreat into a dark silence, or disappear on his bike for a couple of hours.

Last night, he wanted to drive.

I was doing a crossword puzzle with Sport and SO. TeenGuy stood in kitchen, working his jaw. Finally, I stood up to grab my purse. Like lightning, he zipped to the driver's seat of the car, revving the engine.

We ambled along neighborhood streets until I got the bright idea of taking him into a parking lot with speed bumps. "You'll need to learn how to go over them without tearing up the bottom of your car," I told him.

I didn't realize how narrow the entrance was to the lot until he took the turn going way too fast. A metal post, situated to the left of the entrance, loomed ahead. Time slowed down as the front of the car came dangerously close. I must have yelped and said (rather loudly), "You're going to hit it!" Scared the kid to death. Scared me. He started yelling at me. I yelled back that raising my voice was a natural reaction to fear.

It didn't go too well after that. I took over and drove home, vowing to leave the driving lessons up to his father. TeenGuy jumped on his bike and took off.

In the meantime, Sport had a meltdown because he wanted to spend the night at a friend's house. This friend, I'd like to mention, already had plans to spend the night with us the next evening. Sport's learned how to negotiate and bargain from his brother. The difference is, this kid doesn't let go. His appeals tend to go on for hours. We were all exhausted by the time he finally gave in.

I retreated into my bedroom, put on some calming music, and did some yoga. Eventually, TeenGuy reported that he'd gone back to the site of the incident and taken a second look at the space. "You were right, Mom. It was really close. I'm sorry."

And later, Sport came in to apologize as well. They're good boys. But stubborn!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rules of the road

TeenGuy wants to get his driver's license. To do this, he has to learn to drive. Also, he needs to know the rules of the road. I've brought home the Oklahoma driving manual twice during the summer. It sits on the buffet table, looking sad and unused. My son seems to think that getting behind the wheel of the car a couple times a week, hugging the curb, and coming to a full stop at the stop sign is enough knowledge to pass a driving test. Think again, mister. When I imagine him hitting an ice patch during the first winter storm, I shudder.

I've been taking him out when I can, and the last time, SO went with us. He told me I'm too hard on the kid -- honestly, I didn't mean to be. I sort of screamed when he veered into the left lane while making a turn. I was only playing, but my kind of teasing is probably more appropriate for my peers.

I remember learning to drive. It was terrifying. My dad was really critical with my hesitant technique and I was scared to death being in control of a 2-ton solid steel station wagon. But I persevered. I prepared.

I passed the written test with ease, but during the driving part, the state trooper in the car with me nearly jumped out of his seat when I veered to close to a parked car along a narrow neighborhood street.

"Watch the side mirrors! Watch the side mirrors!" I think he broke into a sweat. And then he failed me. The next time, I did much better and left the building with a license to drive. Ahhh, teenage milestones.

Another diary entry:

Jan. 8, 1975. Boy, are my parents mean. They would not go to the library for fear we would be late for church! Dum, right?

Even then, I was a library junkie.

That same day, a year later:

I played with Bruce & Jason [neighborhood boys who lived down the block from us]: "Slaves." Then we played "Bigfoot" and "Time Travel." Then I watched "Nashville remembers Elvis on his birthday." Today was Elvis' birthday. He would be 43. The first birthday without him. It was sad.

I wish I could remember what the game of "Slaves" was like. I'm sure it wasn't politically correct.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


SO and I are working on reorganizing our garage so we can make a gaming station out there for the boys to use when it's not miserably hot or cold. We figure they could get about two and a half seasons of use out of it.

We're pretty good about going through our junk every few years, so at least the thing isn't stacked floor to ceiling with acquisitions. Looks like we'll be making a trip to the hazardous waste dump because we've got lots of half-used cans of paint, insecticides, and other items too dangerous to put in the trash.

I found a box of old letters from family and friends. I weighed the pros and cons of throwing the whole bunch into the recycling bin until SO reminded me that few people write letters anymore. "Maybe our kids won't be interested in those, but our great-grandkids might."

I imagined finding a box of letters written to my own great-grandparents. What a treasure that would be! Wouldn't it reveal their characters to me in a way that family stories never could? I decided to keep the letters and store them in the hopes that a future Adjective Queen might enjoy them one day.

I also found two of my childhood diaries. I got a kick out of reading entries to SO until he very patiently asked me when I thought I'd be done so he could read his own book in peace.

Here's an entry from the 1976-76 edition (spelling errors included):

Jan. 4. I am sitting on my bed writing in you. I don't want to go look at cartoons rite now because I feel I am to old. I am ten years old. We go to music lessons today. I hate them. I don't ever get a day off.

How many times have I heard Sport complain in the same way about piano lessons?

Another entry from the 1977-1978 edition.

Jan. 3. Today was school. Hard to get up this morning ... Mr. Slack told us about "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". It sounds good. Probably will out sale "Star Wars." MAYBE. Haven't seen "Star Wars" yet. I hope we can see it soon.

Guess I got that prediction wrong!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Victor, his name is Victor...

Sport volunteered at the library's Summer Reading Program. As a result, he got a free pass to Laser Quest. He's never been before, so it was a new experience for him. TeenGuy (formerly known as Lego) has gone a couple of times and really enjoyed it, so I was sure that Sport would have fun.

I, however, didn't plan on sticking around. First of all, the place is loud. Secondly, it's smelly. Thirdly, it's loud and smelly. I scouted out a cute little Mexican restaurant nearby, a place called Victor's. After dropping Sport off and making sure he was properly supervised, I grabbed my book and headed for the cafe.

I should have taken my first cue from the penetrating heat of the interrogator's light installed over my booth, My second cue was the stale tortilla chips the waiter so eagerly brought to my table. The third? The bizarre, frenetic music playing over the speaker system. I'm not even sure of the genre. Flamenco/salsa/techno?

The chicken tortilla soup was packed full of squash and carrots -- not a common ingredient in any of the tortilla soups I've ever eaten. I couldn't enjoy my book because the couple behind me had to raise their voices to be heard over the music.

What did I learn? Never eat at a restaurant named after the Lone Rangers nephew's horse.