I continue to have the honor of joining a few other mamas in a blog circle. Each month we write letters to our kiddos. When you’re finished reading mine, click here to read Holli’s letter. Keep reading the letters and following the links, and you’ll eventually come full circle, back here. 

When I reflect on the past month, what stands out for me most is the mouse that wasn’t quite dead. I hope it doesn’t stand out as starkly in your memory as it does in mine.   

In case you’ve managed to repress the memory, let me drag it back to light for you: We were at the cabin for our week, which fell over the fourth of July this year. Puppy, you and I were working on a jigsaw puzzle together inside, while Daddy and Kitten were frolicking about outside. I kept hearing a scraping noise, which I initially figured was Kitten trying to open the heavy front door. But it persisted longer than expected—Kitten usually just shrieks for help after one or two tries.  

Skitter, skitter, scrape… Skitter, skitter, scrape… 

“What’s that noise? Is it Kitten?” 

You kept working on the puzzle, Puppy, unperturbed by my questions. 

Skitter, skitter, scrape… 

“There it is again! What’s that noise?” 

“What noise?” you asked, finally acknowledging my existence. 

“That scraping sound. Wait for it…” We both sat, frozen, waiting for Mommy’s ghost-noise. 

Long silence 

“What noise?” 

“Sh!” 

Another long silence 

“I don’t hear any–”  

Skitter, skitter scrape…  

“THAT! What IS that?! It sounds like it’s coming from over…”  

And then I saw it. The mouse. Pulling itself forward with its front legs and dragging its hindquarters, which were encased in a mouse trap. It was the trap that was skitter-scraping.  

The mouse held my gaze, unflinching and accusing. I turned to you, Puppy, wide-eyed and dumbfounded. You hadn’t seen the mouse yet. I told you not to move, then I went to fetch Daddy. 

Let me interrupt the narrative here to attest that I was very reasoned in the tone I used to call for Daddy. In the time it took for me to rush from the door to the deck’s edge, I carefully considered the range of shrieking options available to me, and chose one that is fundamentally different from the scream I’d use if a child were bleeding out. Can I help it if Daddy misinterpreted the tenor of my call?  

Let me also remind you that Kitten was playing innocently outside. Had I clarified at a shout, “There’s a not-quite-dead-yet mouse dragging its broken body across the floor in here and I need an adult who isn’t me to break its neck!” might I not have scarred Kitten even more?  

As it was, Kitten was delighted to hear of the tragedy unfolding in the cabin. “Is there blood?!” you squealed, dashing between Daddy’s legs to get in the room first.  

Your Daddy and I stared dumbly at each other over the moribund mouse, though our eyes spoke volumes. This is what mine said: The patriarchy is total bullshit, but I’m still calling this mouse your problem. I imagine Daddy’s eyes said: F**k.* 

You two kids were beyond excited about the carnage, peppering Daddy with ghastly questions as he donned his work gloves, picked up the mouse, and carried it outside. I silently vowed to never speak of the nearly-dead mouse again, but Kitten was determined to resurrect the subject repeatedly for the rest of the month.  

Indeed, I think the nearly-dead mouse reignited your fascination with death, Kitten. Ms. Kylie at school recently pulled me aside to ask about the friend of yours who died last week, “Gigi, was it?” No—GG, as in Great Grandmother, and she died a year ago, but you’re talking about it like it’s current events, Kitten. You occasionally leap up from the dinner table to demonstrate what a corpse can look like, and lately, at bedtime, you’ve taken to lamenting, “Oh why won’t the sun just go ahead and blow up already?!” like it’s a trip to Disneyland.  

Our week at the cabin yielded other memorable stories that probably deserve more blogging space than the not-yet-dead-mouse, but they’re just going to get bullet points:  

  • Puppy discovered the rope swing on Deno’s (Canal neighbor) side of the beach. It’s been there forever, but it took seeing the Best cousins on it for you to realize its thrill-potential. You were hesitant about the swing at first, but I watched you grow ever bolder, and your smile as you launched way out over the bulkhead was the best. You guys played on it for hours, and at some point I discovered you’d added a twist to your game: As you swung out over the beach you’d holler/sing, “I believe in the holy spirit; I believe in the resurrection!” Which? Is not a song you learned at home. It seems to me that if you’re going to declare your beliefs on a rope swing, you should maybe sing, “I believe in Newton’s First Law of Motion!”  
  • Uncle Dave sold Kitten on the old joke that the caribou head mounted on the cabin wall got there when the caribou, while still living, couldn’t control his momentum when running down the hill, and crashed headlong into the cabin. Uncle Dave told you the caribou’s legs are still sticking out of the other side of the wall. I missed the tale as he told it to you; all I understood was that you were suddenly frantic for me to take you outside to “see the legs.” “Whose legs?!” “Just come with me, mama!” you begged, tugging at my hand. We both stood out on the deck, staring at the wall, confused.  
  • We hit the fireworks stand before July 4th and picked up some goodies. One of them was an exploding amphibious vehicle of some kind—it looks like a boat. On the drive home, Kitten hoisted it above her head and said, “A boat! A boat! The gods have given me a AAAARGH!” Still quoting Moana 
  • Daddy and I tried to sell you both on watching one of the movies from the random assortment of DVDs at the cabin. We picked out a few we thought you’d like, but Puppy saw Mickey Mouse on the cover of Fantasia and insisted we watch that one. “It’s not what you think it is, Puppy,” I pooh-poohed. “I think it’ll bore you.” Turns out, I’m a fool; you two adored the movie, and I delighted in hearing you explain to Kitten the meaning of the hippos’ dance. Evidently, I’m the only one bored by Fantasia. I apologize for my Philistinism. 

July also brought us: 

  • Puppy covering his eyes and chanting, “ice cream cupcake!” over and over again while getting his toenails clipped. 
  • Kitten beginning every sentence with, “Do you know what?”  
  • Kitten walking into the kitchen, where brownies are baking, and declaring, “Something smells good in here for kids!” 
  • Puppy’s singularly expressive eyebrows. This isn’t new to July, but I gotta mention them here—the range of emotion you convey in your eyebrows, Puppy, floors me. I really wonder if they aren’t a portal to your soul. I should take up eyebrow reading.  
  • Kitten calling out “Husband!” when trying to get Daddy’s attention in a crowd.  
  • Puppy making himself “tickle-proof” in the backseat during a long-ish drive. Each time I breached your tickle barrier, you bolstered your defenses, piling on an endless supply of blankets and pillows. When I finally admitted defeat you declared, “I’m tickle-proof! … And hot.” 

Finally, a bitter-sweet moment this month. One of the gymnastic rings we had installed in the garage earlier– and which you two loved twirling on and jumping from– broke. Unfortunately, you were swinging on it when it broke, Puppy, and you took quite a fall. (Behold the shiner you’re sporting in the photos from our trip to Chelan.) You were really shaken up by the fall— I feared a broken bone. Daddy checked you all over, determined you were whole, albeit unsettled, and got you into the car for our road trip. Then you told him you wanted mama.  

When I got there, you grabbed my arm and pulled me close. It’s such a rare thing to witness anymore—the deep need to be held by your mama. I held you (as best I could; you were strapped into your booster seat), and petted you, and felt the full force of maternal love wash over me, which always leaves me puffy and red. When you saw the emotion on my face, I felt you starting to pull back, so I quickly tried to play it cool by suggesting we invent an outrageous story to tell others when they ask how you got the shiner on your cheek. We floated a lot of suggestions, but you seemed especially drawn to the chasing-robbers motif.  Man, I sure do love you, Puppydeliiscious. 

*No really, I think his eyes bleeped the expletive.

Daddy ran (and finished!) his first olympic triathlon. We took the shuttle bus down to the transition area to cheer him on.

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I continue to have the honor of joining a few other mamas in a blog circle. Each month we write letters to our kiddos. When you’re finished reading mine, click here to read Michelle’s letter. Keep reading the letters and following the links, and you’ll eventually come full circle, back here. 

A little late in our parenting I decided to start a tradition this Father’s Day of giving only kiddo-crafted tchotchkes as gifts for the Hallmark holidays. Daddy and I already have enough gift-giving events to stress us out.*

Little did I know that asking you two to craft with me would so overwhelm your coping skills. Parents, if ever you need to plumb the depths of your kids’ perseverance, may I suggest you engage them in an exercise of making letters with their bodies? Just three letters—say, D, A, and Y so as to spell DADDY. Go ahead and Google some examples so you can skip over the futility of explaining the exercise – just jump right to the part where they lose their shit and lie prostrate on the ground in an apoplectic fit of all-consuming despair. For you two kids, the time between enthusiastic participation and soul-crushing blackness was four-to-eight seconds.

This month we finally made our way out to Ms. Jessica’s cabin in Wenatchee. There, we found a park with an old playground that proves the link between danger and fun. They had a merry-go-round like the one that used to eat kids on the playground in my elementary school. They had swings with chains so long you could knock small aircraft off-course. They had seesaws with none of that liberal-urban elite cushioning; who needs spines?! You guys loved it.

They also had a pool. We neglected to pack your suit, Kitten, so you swam in your undies. You’re at that magical age right now where you’re undaunted by swimming in your skivvies, and you’re not shy about announcing it to everyone at the pool.

I love your gregariousness, Kitten. I brought you to work with me a couple of times this month, and you chatted with everyone there, always introducing yourself with, “I’m four-and-a-half and I have a loose tooth.” (Which, by the way, you don’t.)

At the cabin, Puppy, you found diamonds among the rocks of the gravel driveway. I think you brought home maybe eight or nine pounds of rocks? Of course, most of it went through the washing machine before I discovered it…

Me, calling out to you at the end of our trip: “It’s about time for us to say good-bye, Puppy.” You, sitting on your butt in the driveway, filling your pockets with bling: “It’s about time for me to get rich.”

One of my happiest moments this month came in a QFC bathroom. The three of us were grocery shopping—imagine that! I’m using the words happy and grocery shopping together. We were nearly finished with the list when Kitten, you announced you had to poop. You’re still in a stage of toilet training where we don’t dilly-dally when poop is on the line, so the three of us crammed into the single-commode bathroom together, and hung out while you pooped.

To be clear, we left the cart full of groceries in the hallway outside the bathroom.

First, you two started arguing over whose germs are germier. Then you observed, Kitten, that your poop is stinky, but “I like the smell of my poop.” Puppy, this made you incredulous, and you challenged your sister to rate the smell of her poop against that of throw-up. Mind, this entire conversation took place while Kitten sat on the potty and I occasionally barked, “don’t touch anything!”

 I used to be shy of saying the word fart, and now this.

Puppy, you’ve taken to leaving yourself post-it reminders around the house. I find them where I least expect them—on the seat of your chair at the kitchen table, your bedroom doorknob, the play-kitchen’s refrigerator… They’re usually reminders of items you want to add to your Amazon wish list. They warm my heart, for they demonstrate that you truly are your mother’s son.

Either that, or you’re an 80-year-old grandmother with lots of doctor appointments and medication schedules. My Nanna plastered her bathroom mirror in such notes. Post-its are intrinsically linked to bathroom air freshener for me.

Your first ballet recital, Kitten! Auntie Tracy and Ben came, too. We enjoyed gelato after your performance, and the whole experience left you completely wiped out. A perfect evening– thank you!

This month brought us another seminal movie-viewing event: Moana. I’m so impressed with the flick. I got us the karaoke CD for it, ostensibly for your enjoyment. (It’s possible I’m studying the lyrics, myself.) In the space of one month you’ve each seen the movie at least three times– Kitten, I think you’re up to seven or eight viewings. And now, every morning over breakfast, we play the guess-what-song-is-in-my-head game.

My favorite influence of the movie is your new habit, Kitten, of spouting Moana quotes randomly and without context. (In this, you are your mother’s daughter. Except I establish context.) For example, as Daddy was bringing groceries into the kitchen, you passed by him on your way to the garage, pausing only to say, “You’re no one’s hero,” which Moana tells Maui to help convince him to join her on her adventure.

It would be offensive, if it weren’t so damned cute. Seriously—you even get the cadence of the lines perfectly.

Puppy, you crossed over from Tiger to Wolf in Cub Scouts. Kitten and I attended the ceremony (though all the boys’ sisters hung out on the play structure). It was another perfect evening– thank you!

Puppy, your last few days of first grade were dedicated to cleaning the classroom and bringing home all the junk work you’d been hoarding storing in your desk. The burst of cleaning activity ignited an organizing zeal in you, and you came home one day eager to rearrange the pantry. (Your mother’s son.) “Have at it!” Daddy said, and you attacked that pantry like a fanatical 14-year-old Red Guard on a full professor during a struggle session of the Cultural Revolution.

Thing is… with no principles of classification to guide you, your organizing efforts consisted of moving everything from the lower shelves to upper shelves, collocating cake flour with light bulbs. (Not your mother’s son.)

We marked the end of the school year with our traditional camping trip, this time to Vancouver, CA. (Note: this was the trip that turned Daddy and me against the tent trailer, but I don’t want to talk about it.) Here were the highlights:

  • Our campground had a play structure and pool, which, alone, justified the 3.5-hour drive and four-night stay for you kids. Who needs a city full of kid-centered delights? We could have just camped next to the neighborhood rec center.
  • You two invented a space-alien game at the play structure, complete with a secret, alien language that only you two understood. I was impressed with the cadence and lyricism of your language—it was lovely, though inscrutable. You led Daddy or me around your realm, poked our tummies with sticks, had us sit, stand, or squat… Eventually, Kitten revealed the object of the game: to determine whether visitors were male or female; “Are you a mommy or a daddy?” you asked, in robot speak. So binary! And are we sexless before we reproduce?
  • Each time I took you to the camp’s bathroom, Puppy, I serenaded you with Moana songs as you did your business. You pretended to hate it—you tried to drown out my singing with your howls, “Nooooooooo!” But you actually loved it. Moms know.
  • We caught a “4D” movie at the Vancouver Aquarium (Coastal Predators—it was amazing, by the way). The additional dimension came in the form of vibrating seats, floating bubbles, water spritzes in the face, and spear-pokes in the back. Kitten, you hated it. When the rumbling of the Bryde’s whales joined the hunting melee, you climbed into Daddy’s lap and buried your face in his shoulder. As soon as the movie ended, you asked for you soft blankie. Oh Little Bird… never grow up, okay?

Finally, B,OOTMO. This month’s contributions all came from Kitten:

  • Tomato chips for potato chips
  • Gunoculars for binoculars
  • Crickets for echos (Don’t let go of this one, okay?)

*For the record, while I did get a non-craft gift for Mother’s Day this year (a tea kettle), we returned it and never replaced it, so I think it’s wholly appropriate that I institute this new tradition on Daddy’s day. (Husband, given what I learned about the existential futility of leading the kids in craft projects, may I suggest we start a simple tradition of sacrificing a house plant to me next Mother’s Day?)

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