Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Consider it a Compliment.

We pass by this guy about twice a day.

Every time we do, Claire kicks her legs in excitement and yells, "It'th Papa!! It'th PAPA!! th'not Daddy. Papa."

Papa is what they call my dad. I don't really see a resemblance.

But either way, my children are at no risk of forgetting my parents. And as a bonus, my youngest associates him with the jolly chicken man. Which, you know, is better than a lot of other things.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Overheard from bed this morning

Claire had just opened all the shutters in the room. Grace had been asleep until the sun hit her in the face.

Grace [groggy]: Claire, could you do me a favor, please?
Claire: Yeth.
Grace: Could you please shut all the windows? I'm still sleeping.
Claire: Yeth. [Claire shuts the shutters.]
Grace: Thank you.
Claire: 'elcome.

I was so impressed with Grace's civility after just having woken up.

Should I be less proud considering that two minutes later Claire reopened the shutters and Grace screamed bloody murder?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cheerful Strangers

We are in Dallas. We are visiting my grandparents who are here for a few days. It's been fun.

Today, we drove to the arboretum. It's a park. A park you pay for. Usually you would walk around and see flowers. But it's winter (a fact we may have forgotten when we decided to go). And the flowers are dead. So we walked around and saw grass. And many brown plants. And hundreds of leafless trees. It was... chilly. And almost empty.

We walked and walked and walked. Apparently no one wanted to miss any of the brownery. Somehow, Karlee and I were separated from the rest of our group. (Fine. We were slower and less enthused.) So we picked a bench and waited.

I saw a little bug next to our bench. It had somehow landed on its back. Its little arms and legs were flailing over its head. I'm pretty sure it was asking for help. ("Hey! Look at me over here!") Well, either that or it was trying to keep the sun out of its eyes.

"Karlee!" I said. "Look at this poor little bug. I wonder if it's stuck on its back. Like a turtle." I got down on the ground. As close as I could get. I was kneeling. And I blew that little bug. I didn't want to actually touch it. But blowing didn't seem to be working.

"Elise! You. are. killing. it." Karlee had joined me on her knees on the ground. And she was obviously as concerned as I was. I mean, who wouldn't be? That bug was the only thing clinging to life in this brown little park.

So I tore off a nearby leaf. (Don't worry. The leaf was dying anyway.) I tried to get the bug to grab it. Karlee and I may or may not have been coaching the bug. It's hard to say.

The poor thing was at death's door. And so we are not sure how long we had been kneeling there when it happened.

"Are you... praying?"

A short, stout, white-haired lady had appeared out of nowhere and was peering down at us.


I laughed. "Oh! No!" Laugh again. "We were rescuing a little bug." And, well, rescuing a bug sounds ridiculous enough. But we couldn't prove our story because the sweet 80-year-old woman couldn't see the bug. I don't think she could see the giant flower on Karlee's headband.

She seemed to believe us anyway. She smiled broadly and said, "Oh, well it sure looked like you were praying!" She was cheerful and darling. And then she toddled away. For a minute. She stopped, slowly turned around, and then said, "I just realized that I'd better go grab that good-looking man over there. We've been married for 62 years, after all." And she carefully toddled in the direction of a cute little old man resting on a bench several yards away.

Karlee and I cooed over the darling little couple.

As I'm writing this, it occurs to me that this dear lady may have wanted to rescue us. Maybe she saw two young women collapse to the ground. Maybe she turned to her companion of so many years and said, "I wonder if they need help!" And maybe he, knowing she would regret it later if she didn't, urged her to check on us. Maybe she was disappointed when she found us not in need of help (just as I was when our bug, once righted, stood still--confused--instead of rushing off, happy to be on his feet again).

So she didn't rescue us. And if we had needed rescuing, I can't imagine what the little woman would have done. She was barely balancing herself.

But I'm still thinking about her anyway. I'm thinking of her bright smile and her happy voice, cheerful from years of laughing. I'm thinking of her bold kindness in approaching two young strangers in praying position. I'm thinking of all the times I want to say something kind to a stranger and don't. I'm thinking of her returning to her husband's bench where she held his hand to help him up and where he took her arm and they gently toddled away together leaving Karlee and I to say, "Oh, I hope I'm like that when I'm old."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beaurocracy has its drawbacks.

Do you know that if your license expires in Texas you are required to take the written and the driving tests?

Yes, that's right. The driving test.

I know this from experience. My license expired last month. I tested a month later. [Don't judge me. The threat of testing is highly intimidating.]

I failed parallel parking in a serious way. A ten feet from the curb kind of way. But no other problems. I passed. (I have wicked-awesome stopping-at-stop-sign skills.)

I finally returned to the long line of people to receive my actual license. I took the eye test. I had my thumbs printed. I smiled for my picture. They printed a demo-license for my approval. I looked it over, ready to sign off, and then noticed that my name had been misspelled.

I was told nothing could be done to fix it.

Yes, that's right. Nothing.

"We are required," the licensing agent explained, "to follow the spelling as shown on your official identification document." And apparently, 10 years ago some bored government drone had spelled my name "ELLSE" on my passport.

I protested. I showed them my debit card. My former driver's license. My apartment bills. My marriage license. But government drones are stubborn.

And then they proceeded to tell me to sign my real name--which they acknowledged was, in fact, Elise.

I don't get it either.

But I wasn't about to sign "Ellse," so I obeyed.

Meet Ellse.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why we don't have cable

I was busy doing something else. I usually am, when something like this happens. The munchkins had just finished watching Matilda. It was about fifteen minutes before I got around to checking in on them.

They were in the kitchen.

A broken egg was on the floor. It had been smeared into one of my kitchen mats. Powdered sugar and flour were sprinkled generously on the counters. And on Claire's face. And in her hair.

Grace stood on a chair at the mixer. She had cracked one egg (this one had been done carefully) and dropped it in the mixing bowl along with random amounts of flour, powdered sugar, and milk.

"Is this how Matilda made pancakes?" she asked.

As I noticed the frying pan Grace had carefully placed on a burner, I evenly, calmly replied, "Um, I think she used a recipe. Since she could read."

"Oh," she said.

Then she asked me to pass her more sugar.

I didn't yell. I cooked two pancakes on the griddle Grace had prepared.

But I was preparing too. I would take advantage of this teaching opportunity. As soon as they bit into their yucky pancakes, I would share with them the importance of following recipes. That this experience was an analogy for life. That obedience is crucial to happiness and "yummy pancakes."

Unfortunately, they scarfed the pancakes.

Apparently, milk, eggs, sugar, and flour always taste good together. Recipes and measurements be darned.

My life. Oh, my life.