Tiresome Tuesday

SunsetI was exalting in my nakedness. The house was still an appropriate temperature, the bathroom was full of morning sun. I entered the shower blissfully—and this is the part where if I were Dr. Suess, I would say something like “A frog on the wall? Shouldn’t be there at all!” But I’m not, so I just looked at it for a instant before turning on the water. The water hit the wall; the frog jumped onto my forehead. If I had been standing in the summer heat, his two-inch long body would have worked nicely as a cool pack. Instead, I decided a frog on my head shouldn’t be there at all.

I chased him around the shower, he hopped fast. I chased him faster; he knocked off the shampoo bottles. “This is not a rain forest!” I shouted at him; he jumped out of the shower. I chased him around the bathroom; he hopped faster. Puddles were all over the floor; he was hopping all over the walls. I caught him twice; he forced his lithe body out between my fingers.

I’m not good at catching things —I’m too afraid of hurting them. The third try I had him in an iron grip. He was released into the wild, both of us in our birthday suits. If I were Dr. Suess, I would conclude this beginning with something like “And that is how Tiresome Tuesday began.”

Grasshopper

Now, if I were following along the lines of one of my son’s favorite Dr. Suess stories—Wacky Wednesday, only this is the Tiresome Tuesday version—there would still be a frog on the wall. There wasn’t, but with artistic license, let’s assume there was. One big fat tree frog, right in the middle of the kitchen, nearby where I was making French toast this morning.

What else might be amiss? How about a tot sitting on top of Big Dog’s face—yep, that actually happened—and both were tolerating it well. She was reading a book, held upside down, expounding on it with words of toddler nonsense. I sat down with a plate of warm food and that delicious foreign maple syrup, when I felt someone’s eyes on me. I then locked eyes with a huge grasshopper on the window. I broke eye contact swiftly, fearful of what other creatures may have come to call.

Turn the page.

In Dr. Suess’s story, things escalate quickly. And so, it seems, does real life. There were dishes outside, and dirt in the sink. There was the rustle of squirrels in the attic, instead of the trees. The rooster was roosting in his bed at lunchtime. It was ninety degrees outside in mid-October. The boy pooped his pants, and the tot made it to the toilet. The world had gone mad.

Turn the page. 

Big DogI ran! I ran into Patrolman McGann! Alright, of course there is no Patrolman McGann. If you haven’t read the book, then consider yourself confused. I ran into Big Dog. His wet nose rubbed against my cheek as he sniffed me, maybe smelling my frog friend. His big, calm, gold eyes spoke. “Only twenty things more will be tiresome,” he said. “Just find them and go back to bed.”

And here we are. Bedtime. Big Dog was right.

But out on the porch I hear a frog croaking. It sounds like a taunt.

A Log of Eccentric Homeschooling Activities

Homeschooling ActivitiesWhat to do on a steamy fall morning, after the school books have been taken off the table? The traffic had calmed, the stores were full of retirees—the perfect time for a homeschooler’s outing.

First Up: The Hardware Store

The mid-morning sun was hot enough to turn the plastic handle on the fancy race car cart to the temperature of scalding dishwater. I stood there in those strong golden rays at the store front, while the children had a good educational examination of the lawn mowers for sale. The tot nearly tripped over the fat yellow cord that is either there to trip up the schemes of thieves, or to trip up toddlers that want to climb on them. Maybe both.

The boy knows a lot about riding lawn mowers. He quickly popped the hood.

“Here’s the oil! Let’s check the battery,” he said, shuffling around the machine. The tot climbed aboard, gripping the steering wheel like she was ready for a bumpy ride. “Look! Here’s the gas!” Continued the boy.

I eyed the passersby, all nice retirees thinking the kids were cute. I wondered when a sales associate would show up and tell me that children are not supposed to open the gas caps. None were in sight. The kids moved onto the next mower. A quick examination of oil, battery, and gas tank was made. Then the boy got comfy up on top, moving levers that made uncomfortable clunks. I was beginning to sweat. The boy hopped off the row of green mowers and onto an orange one.

Homeschooling Activities
The tot shaking the skeleton like a puppy shakes a toy.

“Look! This one is like ours because it is not a John Deere!” The boy said. I hadn’t realized that all mower manufacturers could be lumped into two categories: “John Deere” and “Not John Deere.” I felt like the boy should be wearing a baseball cap with the John Deere logo on it. Maybe he ought to be staring in a commercial with that line.

Moving Right Along

I managed to usher the kindergartner and the nursery school tot into the race car cart and into the air conditioning. Shop class was over. We strolled through the store, through the appliances.

“This place is a house!” The boy said, pointing to all the display kitchens. “How do they get those kitchens home?” If only kitchens could be installed with a crane, the entire room dropped down inside as though it were part of a doll house.

We meandered over to the Halloween section. The tot looked with trepidation at a large blown-up pumpkin-headed creature. We kept the cart moving.  There was no fear of the green-faced witch, or the growling wolf-man, and some genuine affection for the skeletons. We squeezed in a little bit of anatomy in today’s lessons after all.

We headed home.  The children then took it upon themselves to take home economics class. Today’s topic covered was cookie making, in addition to flour scattering, raisin eating, and other more minor skills required in baking.

The results were quite impressive.

Homeschooling Activities

The Twelve Inch Tire Version of Life

Twelve-Inch Tire“Hurry! We’ve got to catch those people!” The boy yelled, picking up his bike where he had tossed it on the road. There was something reminiscent of a person hopping on a motorcycle and blasting off, the way the boy hopped onto that twelve-inch-tired bike and sped off.

“Oh no! We’ve got to catch the people!” The tot shouted in the twelve-inch-tire version of a voice. She started the twelve-inch-tire version of a run, which I could manage to keep up with pretty well with my twenty-six inch tire version of legs.

I ambled onward, looking at the sky. The Florida version of Mother Nature isn’t convinced that the seasons are shifting. Today she took a day off from her work toward autumn, and decided to sic some nasty summer thunderstorms on us. The clouds were still swaying about the sky, slowly clearing off, as the sun gave over to the moon.

“We’ve got to catch the people! We’ve got to catch the people!” The tot chanted, her words garbled up here and there as she stumbled over nicks in the road. I picked up the pace a bit, dragging an umbrella stroller with a mind of its own along with me. The thing was bent on turning in any direction that wasn’t straight, and we skittered along together to the sound of the tot’s garbled chant.

Onward

Down the curving streets, as twilight started to seep in. There were no other kids out so late on a school night; just us homeschoolers. Nobody in our house is getting up at 6:30 in the morning to pack a school lunch tomorrow.

“Hurry! Hurry!” The boy egged us on, held back by the rule of not getting too far ahead, dragging us along like a rusty anchor. “They turned the corner!”

We soon stood at the crossroads.  A left turn to be homeward bound; a right turn to further the chase. I looked up at the moon, almost full, shining down on us. My mom used to say that walking in moonlight was good for you. I decided I agreed.

Moonlit Walk
Chasing the Moon

“We’ll take the long way tonight, because the moon is full,” I told the children, who cheered and continued on. The suspects were getting away—they had to act fast.

The moon followed us, sneaking a glance at us through the pine trees. I watched how the branches of live oaks, so normally appealing in the daylight with the stately way they stand horizontal to the ground, suddenly looked eerie in the growing darkness. Everything loses its comfort in the dark. All that full moonlight soothes us.

Win or Lose

The boy was still held back, dragging along his anchor; a breathless tot made a false move in a shallow ditch and landed her butt in muddy water. Tears were shed, mud was sloshed, and then again: “We’ve got to catch the people!”

By the next bend I could see our heroes were growing tired. The tot’s trot was becoming a waddle. The boy’s enthusiasm had waned. The sun sent out its last burst of color, bits of pink here and there—a backdrop of light to all the silhouettes of Florida: Short needle pines, miscellaneous under-story scrub, and palmetto fronds.

Florida Sunset
The dramatic version of Florida, that exists in my imagination.

Sadly, the people’s distant figures disappeared around a curve, too far off to be pursued any further. The scent had gone cold. I don’t know what the neighbors did to be chased like that, but no doubt it was something very offensive—the twelve-inch tire version of offensive, anyway.

Cooking with Children: Teaching Skills and Vulgarity

Big gold eyes stared at me from the darkness.  Unblinking, full of misery—the stare of determination. His breath was held, as he waited for my response. I gave none. Finally, he folded. Give me the cheese, he said with his eyes.

Teaching Children Cooking
In case you wondered what I look like, here is my self portrait—forty-one eyes.

“It’s been a long day,” I said, “You’ve got dog food you know.” The house is very quiet now, so quiet I can hear the summer insects singing through the walls. Everything has its balance. Twelve hours ago it was all noise.

Scout Meeting Number Two

Today I handed over my newly cleaned house on a silver platter to our Spiral Scouts circle. As their fearless leader, I ushered seven kids under seven into the dining room to continue work on our cooking badge. I got lucky. The first badge my circle is working on is something I enjoy teaching children.

As per the badge requirements, the children are learning the seven-year-and-younger version of self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency began today with making a side salad, largely because I could incorporate a bunch of physical skills into it.

The Procedure

My dining room table would have looked very elegant set up with various shining metal bowls of water for washing the lettuce leaves, if it were not for that ugly red bowl. Scouts’ dues don’t exactly pay for beauty—they barely pay for lettuce.

Teaching children cooking
That blasted red bowl…

After washing the leaves, the scouts had to break them into appropriate sized pieces and put them in their own bowl. I should have gotten pictures of the salads. There were many almost intact lettuce leaves. I heard one parent saying “Are you going to fit that in your mouth?” The kids either learned to break salad greens, or learned how to have vulgar eating habits. Either way.

Teaching children cooking
Banana-Split Carrots and Tomatoes

The children then traveled to the west side of the dining room table, where I had put seven carrots in a pretty little banana-split dish. Who makes banana-splits in a fancy dish? Clearly, it was made for holding carrots. Reverse psychology—now I really want to make a banana split in that thing. Anyway, the kids then had to peel their carrots, and grate them over their salads. This, thank goodness, resulted in no skinned-knuckles. I heard more than one parent say “Now we don’t want any thumbs in our salads.” I love these people.

Teaching children cooking
The Aftermath

Then they added a few cherry tomatoes, and moved onward to the east end of the table, where I hovered over the bottle of expensive olive oil. It was time to make my standard vinaigrette, which was almost guaranteed to repulse any child, but did require a great deal of measuring and pouring for practice’s sake. The children poured their olive oil and balsamic vinegar, measured out their sugar, salt, and garlic, and then got to shake the mixture up in a mason jar—the fun part. Miraculously, three out of the seven children (including the refined taste buds of my son) actually liked the vinaigrette. The other children were given your standard American ranch dressing to mask the garlic/balsamic vinegar.

Teaching children to cook
And then the return of quiet, to balance it all out.

Then, all restraints gave way. The children ran circles around the house like screaming banshees, just blurs of the same colored polo shirt uniform. Another scout meeting under my belt, complete with a side salad.

I gave the cheese to Big Dog. Those sad gold eyes—he’s too good.

The First Day of School, at Home

Sunset WalkAugust 1st was our first day of school, out of laziness. I wanted the official beginning of schooling on a nice easy day to remember, like the first—rather than the 8th, when all the public school children started. As it turns out, I suck at preserving memories. I was going to take the iconic back-to-school pictures with my son wearing an (empty) backpack next to the front door. I totally forgot. But I can still do it, and no one would know…

For the first day of official homeschooling, we did exactly the same thing we have done every weekday morning for the last six months. (Again, I’m not excellent at making memories.) I got to look at the squiggly lines of a five-year-old’s printed letters, listened to a cute voice carefully picking through the words of a story, and rolled chocolate chips across the table for every correct subtraction answer spouted out.

Other New Beginnings 

The day got more eventful later on, when the boy got to attend his first karate class, which only by luck coincided with his “official” beginning of school. We’d tried martial arts in the past, and that is a separate story for a separate paragraph.

DirectionsSix months ago we tried out a class. It was one of those places with the fake rubber bad guy staring out the window at you. The American flag was emblazoned all over, like a permanent Independence Day celebration. The man running it was one of those people that is supposedly very physically fit, but looks a bit soft around the middle. He had a robust personality. A big talker—that was clear immediately.

The boy sat in on a class. Twenty other kids were subdued into little lines on the mats, while twenty parents all lined up against the wall, watching. Quite an audience. The boy shut down; there was no chance he’d perform in front of that crowd. It was just as well, because I watched the big talker tell the kids all about the glory of his military experience, and then instruct the kids to bow to the flag, rather than the instructor.

Choosing Our Teachers Wisely

Picking our own wise ones to follow is tricky, and even more so trying to pick them for the next generation. Patriotism aside, bowing to the military isn’t something I’m that keen on instilling in my son. So, I kept looking. I was pretty sure I’d found the one I’d been looking for when I spoke to him on the phone. He had a subtle Hispanic accent—his words had a soft rhythm, spoken smoothly and calmly, those words entering my ears and circulating, relaxing all my muscles. I listened in silence. Yes, the details are all good. Oh, let’s take a nap.

Not surprisingly, the class went swimmingly. My son added some extra superhero flair to the kicks and punches he was instructed to do. There is nothing cuter than miniature superheroes learning to control their bodies, and learning to bow to someone hand-picked for his wisdom.

Reading

A Learning Milestone

When we got home, as though to bring a proper conclusion to our first official day, the boy picked up a chapter book and just started reading. Of his own accord. After he read one chapter I asked him what it was about, so he read the next two chapters aloud. It was a brilliant moment in teaching, and I am hooked on The Magic Treehouse series too, like a five-year-old.

Now to remember to get that dusty backpack out tomorrow and get those first-day-of-school pictures.

Planning: A Homeschooling Endorphin Release

“Wh-wh-wh wh-wh-wh wh-when does…” My sweet five year old sometimes stutters when he is trying to explain something he has built up in his head. I failed to hear the second part of the sentence, because while I sat staring patiently at him I was also scratching records in time with his stutter in my imaginary DJ booth.

“Sorry, I don’t understand the question.”

“Wh-wh-when does the street sweeper dump the stuff it picks up?”

“Street sweepers pick up things?” I sat for a few seconds thinking about some of the disgusting things that a street sweeper could pick up. Once I finished staring off into space I said, “I have no idea.”

The boy immediately began whistling a tune, as this was a run-of-the-mill answer he could expect. Silly mama, doesn’t know something again. And here we are, a homeschooling family. I don’t know lots of things. But, I have the internet, and lots of texts.

Homeschooling has been a heavy topic on my mind lately. Earlier in the month I finally got around to facing my fears, and filing our Notice of Intent to Homeschool. For years I’ve been building it up in my head. We are safe until we file. Then there would be no hiding it from the greater powers—we could be put on that list of alternative-lifestyle families that are considered troublemakers. I was pleasantly surprised, when I finally faced my fears.

I anticipated finding the state’s websites on homeschooling to be evasive. I thought they would provide a bare minimum of information with lots of caveats. In actuality they were very clear-cut, and not bullying. I had a specific question for my local county office, and I received a prompt answer from the director, who was almost…friendly. It was an enormous relief. I don’t mean to suggest I have my guard down. I still think there is a chance the school board is out to get me. Government officials that seem to do their job efficiently and are pleasant—very suspicious.

Planning Homeschooling

Public school starts here in early August. We will be considering that our official date as well, although we’ve been doing “school” for a while now. That means I have about a week to put together exactly what our plans are for the upcoming year. This is an exciting time. I have bookcases full of materials that I have been collecting from yard sales and thrifts stores for years and finally—FINALLY—I get to start using them! My moment of glory as a profoundly cheap homeschooling mother has come. I love to run my hands across the spines of those books, like I am absorbing their knowledge through my skin. I can’t wait for my son to start absorbing it too.

I’ve got my big calendar out. I’ve got illegible scribbles on a piece of notebook paper, breaking down which lessons will take x number of weeks. And a glass of water, because I am not an exciting person. Stacks of books are around me. Two digit subtraction. Endorphin release. Art projects. I’ve got chills.

I’ve got to go.  I’m a little drunk on education.

The Voice of a Scout Leader

I have finally found a proper use for my God-given talent. That’s all we want, isn’t it? The artist in all of us wants our talents to shine. My talent has been underappreciated or misunderstood for years. What is my talent, you ask? I am loud.

Loud Dinosaur
A fellow loud creature.

Mind you I can be very soft spoken should the mood inspire it, but I prefer to exercise my full volume. For what I lack in physical size, I make up for in noise. Should I ever be attacked, I could probably reserve the finger-breaks and throat-bites for last resort self-defense, and instead deafen my attacker with one well projected scream.

Putting a Voice to Use

Today at my first official scouting meeting as leader, I discovered my voice’s purpose. Do you know how hard it is to wrangle seven kids under the age of seven? And just imagine all of those kids very excited to see each other. It is challenging—for someone less loud than me.

We got to test run our opening ceremony today. I wrangled the children into a circle, all silent eyes on me, as I passed around some rocks painted with the elements. “Air is for new knowledge,” I began with the yellow stone with the air symbol drawn on, and the kids artfully worked together to pass it around. The rock passing went so smoothly I’m suspicious that this little ritual will collapse into chaos at the next meeting. Once we passed around fire, water, earth, and spirit, I handed out one fat round stone that represented our group. All the kids had to say their “vow” as it was passed, and of course none of the kids had memorized it yet. I’m proud to say I memorized the vow in one sitting, despite my thirty-two year old brain.

Little girl
A golden raindrop, before all the excited energy turned her to hail.

“I make this vow,
To remind me now,
To be kind and good,
Like a Raindrop should.”

Don’t hate our scouting group because the little scouts are called Raindrops.  I didn’t make it up. These kids are far from gentle, silent rain. We should call them hail—loud, tough, but still beautiful, hail. But guess what is louder than hail? The scout leader that ushered them all into the dining room to begin work on our cooking badge.

Loud Activities 

As per the outline of the badge, these kids had to learn about kitchen safety. My co-leader led them in to stand near the stove, while I self-consciously looked around at my “lived-in” kitchen. He began the discussion on safety, taking in the input from the kids. The most noteworthy idea brought up by a child was the topic of houseflies. “They poop on your food,” the boy said. I don’t think that is quite what happens, but I didn’t want to dissuade the boy from his disgust. Who knows, maybe he finds fly poop more disgusting than fly eggs, or the bacteria of roadkill transferred from fly foot to human food. Once they were done, I clapped my hands, and as the designated Loud Scout Leader, I brought the children to my part of the activities.

I had set up little cups with mystery foods inside. The first set was composed of the tastes sweet, salty, sour and bitter; the second set was the textures hard, soft, chewy, and slimy. I had the children close their eyes while their parents fed them the mystery foods, and the children guessed what the taste or texture each food had. I might have a mean streak, because I could have probably found some sort of candy to cover “sour”, but I decided to use lemon juice. I did warn them to take a small sip, and then in good humor took in all the puckered, sour expressions on the kids’ faces. They were unsuspecting after having been fed sweet chocolate and salty pretzels, but they plowed onto the next one—such good sports.

Grasshopper
The invertebrate scout, participating through the window.

Then it was time for the closing ritual, and everything fell into chaos. No amount of loudness was going to contain the energy those kids had after completing their first scout meeting. They ran circles around the rooms, a tornado of hail/raindrops exploding toy order, but not fully defiling my house. It was a success.

My voice was exercised. I feel vital and fresh. I think this scout leader role might just suit me and my voice.

 

Wearing Lots of Hats/Adult Metamorphosis

“If you are good through this meeting, I will let you watch a lot of Magic School Bus,” I said to the boy this afternoon. He doesn’t get free range of Magic School Bus. It is a coveted bus. I had just finished talking to him in my most scolding voice—acting in my role of Strict Mother—about how he was terrorizing the household. I needed good behavior today.

image-2018-07-01.jpgSwitching roles: from raindrop to diamond.
The thing most likely to make a homeschooled family roll their eyes is the word “socialization”. I know, because I sometimes tie my hair up in a tight bun, pick up a ruler, and take on a role as Homeschool Teacher. “Socialization” is such a popular topic among those that haven’t thought homeschooling through. For a naturally outgoing kid, meeting friends and interacting in society is ridiculously easy while homeschooled. There are endless opportunities. For a child that is a little shy but warms up easily, it is still not a concern. For the child that is hardcore shy—that clings to a parent’s leg and takes more than one meeting with a new friend to actually interact—is where things get a little more difficult. This fall my son will be joining a lot of activities for the sole purpose of getting a bit more comfy interacting with the outside world. The first of which we started today.

Oh the things a parent will do for a child. I will put on a forest green polo shirt, rummage through the closet to find a pair of khaki pants, and smile while I open my door to some strangers, all for my newest role: Scout Leader.

image-2018-07-01 (1).jpgTransformation from princess to mermaid.
I decided to start up a local chapter of Spiral Scouts, acting as co-leader. The boy needed a scouting program to join that was not too big—something low key; something that could grow with us. In addition, I really like to teach my children the rhythms of nature. The rhythms of nature are a lot of what Spiral Scouts is about, because it was started by a pagan church. So here I am, living in what I consider the southernmost tip of the Bible Belt, starting up a scouting program that reeks of pagan undertones. Although we are not actually pagans and the group is run secularly, I have a strong feeling that we are going to have some interesting interactions around town. It is so easy for people to judge what they don’t understand. That said, I always see value in showing the kids the world without the rose colored glasses of “normal” life.

image-2018-07-01 (2).jpg
The well mannered scout and the driveway pool.

The Magic School Bus promise kept things smooth. My clean living room internally exploded with craft supply rubble as the eight children entertained themselves. I was busy in the dining room with the adults, pamphlets spread out neat across my table, while I transformed into Scout Woman.

I wonder if most people transform like I do, or if it is a unique feature of my personality. I fill whatever void is left in a relationship. If I am with robust personalities, I fill in the role of shy listener. If my companions are taciturn, I become outgoing. Standing in my dining room surrounded by the staring eyes of adults all waiting to hear my presentation, I am suddenly an organized, dependable scout leader.

The boy was making crafts with the lot of them, not outright socializing, but not hiding either. Progress. Once we really start to get our hands dirty, friendships with his fellow giggling kindergarteners are inevitable. Meanwhile, I’ll be Strict Mother-Homeschool Teacher-Scout Woman, among other things.

After all the stress of metamorphosis, we unwound before dark in the pool of the driveway. We all unwind in our own ways. The boy kicked the water to see how far he could make it splash. The tot crawled, rolled, and frolicked. What a strange lot we are. For my final role of the day, I walked lazily barefoot through warm puddles, and stared up at the sky to think about life, as Philosopher Woman.

Those Pretty Sparks Don’t Stay Lit in the Sky Long

I woke up bright and early because there was a toddler sitting on my chest. “Read books, Mama,” she said with enthusiasm, her bright blue eye gleaming. Good god it’s too early for this. I read one book and persuaded her away from the other by saying: “Today is the fourth of July! It’s a holiday.” I slipped out of bed while she was still thinking that over.

image-2018-07-05.jpgFirework flowers that drop sparks into the pool.
The boy had already updated his calendar, glad to finally be able to use the little “Independence Day” magnet. Like a doting homeschool mother, I allowed him to nix our schooling activities for the day and replaced it with a five minute discussion while holding the globe. I explained how tiny little England, way over in Europe, owned the USA, and already I felt us falling down the rabbit hole. Explaining history to kindergarteners is complicated. The United Kingdom does not even accurately appear on my preschool-appropriate homemade globe of only the basic shapes of the continents. Explaining how the tiny mystery island had control over the enormous piece of land that is the USA is confusing. “Well, back then there were only 13 colonies – like states…” I said. We escaped the rabbit hole with the knowledge that it is officially time to get out the real globe. I gave the boy a stack of American themed mazes and slipped out of there.

image-2018-07-05 (1).jpgNature’s fireworks
I went into the kitchen. I needed to knock out a couple things before the guests arrived. I started a peanut butter pie—one meant to be uncooked and kept in the fridge. I proceeded to make a beautiful crust—every piece of butter was blended smoothly into a beautifully textured dough. The edges were scalloped to perfection. The peanut butter filling was fluffy as whipped cream; the chocolate layer atop gleaming gloss. I went to put it in the fridge, and then it hit me. I never baked the crust. Shit.

image-2018-07-05 (2).jpg
 

So then the guests arrived. Children poured into the house like water bursting out of a busted hose. Similar to being soaked by that hose water, joyous noises saturated the house. Covered dishes and bottles of alcohol, bags spilling over with bathing suits and towels came in too. The French doors clip-clapped against each other with a steady rhythm throughout the afternoon. The stack of fireworks on the buffet was continually visited by children.When is it time? They knew the answer to that question, but the sun was so lazily moving through the sky. Stories, jokes, vodka and sprite cluttered in around the dining room. A good friend set the tarot cards on the table, for the seasonal reading. Gold light trickled in through the thin curtains, setting the mood despite the background revelers. Three mysterious looking cards were flipped upward onto the table, and the interpretations began.

Children burst in again. Still not time to do fireworks. Paper crafts and glue hit the table, and four new Statutes of Liberty dawned the dining room with their crowns. The statues paraded through the house in one quick swoop, before returning to ask about the fireworks. The peanut butter pie was set on the table and good news! Baked peanut butter pie tastes just like one enormous Reese’s cup. Success.

Mother Nature began her fireworks just prior to dusk. The clouds were lit with delicate pink and gold. The preparations began: Hosing the children down with bug spray made of something fancy, finding eight misplaced little shoes. Flashlight? Check. Does anyone have a lighter? Scramble, shuffle. The dogs started to pace nervously—Old Man Dog ready for the excitement, Big Dog stressed by the anticipation. Outside, blue light had fallen on everything. There were loud pops and giggles. Finally, a lighter was located with stern instructions. Point the sparkler away from everyone! Pictures and pictures and more pictures of the obligatory child-with-sparkler pose.

image-2018-07-05 (3).jpgA grainy picture still preserves a moment…
Us folks in the quasi-country like fireworks, so much so that observing a show requires not a lot of effort on our part. The neighbors lit the sky in every direction with out-of-state fireworks to rival the professional show downtown. We did our part with a few spinning UFOs, and a couple sparkly fountains. The night grew lazy with all those stars; the mosquitos grew ambitious. One more sparkler? Can I do one more? One adult was left in charge of a box of matches and the Sparkler Children. The adults went inside to the fake light of the sleepy dining room. Yawning adults started to collect their wet bags of bathing suits and towels and empty casserole dishes.

I tinkered around the house, picking up a few things, but not really making an effort. Holidays aren’t for cleaning. I tucked exhausted children into bed under a fan on high speed and the very distant booms of parties still partying. Another beautiful summer holiday on the books. Time just keeps moving forward—got to enjoy it. Those pretty sparks don’t stay lit in the sky long.

Firefly Magic (for any age)

 

image-2018-06-20 (2).jpg
Beautiful lace.

Gleaming neon butts blinking away to the dark night are completely fascinating to Floridians. I can’t say with certainty that Florida does not have fireflies, but we only see them once in a blue moon. My three favorite things about coming up north to visit my grandmother are Queen Anne’s lace, fireflies, and rocks—in that order.

 

We were all tinkering around my grandmother’s porch as dusk approached this evening. My grandmother was sitting on the porch-swing telling me a story about her high school days.  She once had to ride on a logging truck while wearing an evening gown, in order to attend a special event for her graduation. During this story, the tot found a miniature version of a mop and was scraping it haphazardly across the boards. The boy was counting cars, shouting out with enthusiasm what the models were. It was then I caught the first glimmer of the blinking neon butts.

The boy ran down the porch steps with his little glass jar and aluminum foil top. He is far from a bug catching novice. He knows the importance of speed and dexterity—gentle but not too gentle. He is very effective at what he does. But soon he was back, imploring me to assist with controlling the captives while new captives were shuffled in. I walked down to the dry green grass, dotted all over with clover. The woods was painted with odd shadowy shapes, having taken in night before everywhere else. The fireflies looked like happy little nightlights gleaming on and off against it. They looked like pure magic. I had been wanting to catch them in a jar—like I’d seen in books and on TV when I was a kid—but until recently I had no real excuse to do so. Finally, the boy could be the excuse to get those little blinkers in one place for a proper examination.

image-2018-06-20 (3).jpgWonderful, useful rocks.
It should be pointed out here that “firefly” is not the correct terminology for where I am visiting. Apparently “firefly” is a northern term. In the dialect of my location, they are “lightening bugs”.

image-2018-06-20.jpg

The tot, intrigued with the fireflies lightening bugs but lacking the concentration stamina of the boy, ran around the grass carrying a paintbrush she’d picked up somewhere while yelling out random things. I was busy manning the aluminum foil. The boy kept catching them, and I kept tapping on the top saying to them “Back, beasts! Back!” as I resealed the aluminum foil. Calling them beasts was maybe a little harsh. They are so lovely, they deserved better.

“Come up here and let me see what size jar you’ve got,” my grandmother called from the porch steps—cane in one hand, hammer in the other. A proper sizing and holing of the top was done, and we were prepared to take on the lot of them with our new, efficient equipment.

The tot ran up to me, putting her face within two inches of mine, and with wide eyes declared “Fireflies!” Toddler excitement is so contagious.

image-2018-06-20 (1).jpg
The best I could do.

The boy beckoned me down toward the deep, dark woods where they were plentiful and magical like a gathering of fairies. Who should a female lightening bug pick? The one that flashes the most frequently, or the one that flashes a millisecond longer than the other? Or just the first flasher she comes along? Decisions, decisions.

We captured what I thought was ten, but got confused because there were many escapees, and many additions, and too much movement to get a proper count. We carried them up to the porch where I kept telling the boy to startle the jar to make them flash. I was bent on getting a flashing picture. After all, I’d been waiting for this opportunity for years.

Eventually we went in to eat homemade chocolate chess pie. Now I sit awake in bed with a jar of lightening bugs on the night stand.

The stinkers are not flashing though.