Monthly Archives: April 2009

Literacy

Met a woman yesterday who "absolutely hates reading." She repeated this statement several times in several ways.  I find myself wondering how a person develops such a fierce antipathy to reading, of all things. I thought literacy was like music–we all have different tastes, but we can all appreciate it in one form or another. Maybe nobody ever gave her a good book, or maybe there is a disability there, I don't know. But it enlarged my tunnel vision just a bit, as I considered how different we were.

I admit I led a privileged childhood. Our apartment was filled with books. Every wall, hall and bedroom. Shelves of books. Discards from the library and the schools, purchased at garage sales and second hand shops. We didn't have television but we had our own little tattered at-home library and did the city of Lethbridge ever have a library! I had no idea it was such a singular thing until I moved away. 
There wasn't television at Grandma and Grandpa's farm in Aetna either. We had two options–go outside and play, or stay inside and read through back issues of Readers Digest or other magazines. While everyone else was out burning their noses in the Southern Alberta summer sun or freezing their digits in the winter, I'd read. 
When I was accused of being boring, I'd venture out and inspect the latest fort or snow cave or stash of eggs stolen from the hen house, but the printed word always drew me back. Building a fort was a thrilling idea, but to me it seemed to be just that–an idea. A pile of rocks in a coulee, soon to be abandoned for some other, better scheme. I tried it a few times. I loved the land; I did. But I took it for granted; I had smelled the wildflowers and picked the berries and climbed the hills and I would do it again indefinitely–they and I would always be there, I felt. Right now, I had this book I wanted to finish.
It probably wasn't an ideal approach to living. I probably missed out on all sorts of real life situations while I inhabited the printed world, and I understand why other children and adults prefer to experience the world in a more tangible way, but I cannot imagine hating to read. Actually hating it. 
Am I teaching my children to love reading? Providing enough variety that they are able to find something they love to read? As a child, I'd read anything–the backs of cereal boxes and the advertisements glued up around the top of the city buses, anything, everything.  Egad. What if when my children say there is nothing to read, they aren't just pouting or out of sorts? We need a library–a real library with millions of titles and big silent stacks to get lost in. Why in all the world, did a little town (population maybe fifty or sixty thousand when I was a child?) like Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada have a library that vast? Am I remembering it wrong? I don't think I am. Boy, did I take it for granted!

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Sleeping Out

My children set up a tent last Thursday.

The night was far spent by the time they drilled the pegs into our rocky backyard and the tent was full of detritus from last summer's camping trip, so they went to sleep in their own beds.

Friday they cleaned it out and we bought real beef hot dogs and had a fire and five boys went out to sleep. Two were warm–including the oldest, who slept outside the tent–and three froze.

Saturday, two of the cold ones learned their lesson and insulated their sleeping areas. Two slept indoors.

Sunday all but one decided to sleep out again. The oldest, who'd come to the same conclusion the rest of us had–when the younger ones sleep in the tent, not only are they eager to go to bed, but no matter how long they stay awake giggling, or how early they start–the rest of us can't hear them. 

Could it get more perfect? I pictured a long, and restful spring/summer season. I blocked out all images of the 10' square patch of dead grass developing under the tent and straightened everyone's bed rolls. I went inside. To sleep. Ahhhhh.

The sprinklers came on at three a.m.

The youngest came inside howling that he was never sleeping outside again. The rest hunkered down and waited. I opened the back door. Two choices: mad dash through the Rainbird 2045 sprinklers that were battering the tent, the house and every square inch of yard between, to the control box on the opposite end of the house; or, go downstairs, out the front door, through two gates and make a sneak attack from behind.

I chose the more direct, but wetter, approach.

"They turned them back off!"

Apparently they thought the sprinklers were some sort of elaborate hoax. The older, wiser brother had thought it through, however. "They were supposed to come on, they're on a timer. Nobody's out there," I hear him whisper.

"What if they come on again?"

"I turned them off," I called as I trudged back across the yard. "Go back to sleep." I could hear a handheld video game starting up. "Turn the DS off, too," I added.

Click. What do you know, Mom really does know all and see all.

I went back to bed after drying off the youngest and getting him some spare bedding, hoping they would all be able to sleep again. 

Unfortunately the birds in the orchard were on to us. They started their "chorus" at about three-thirty, which started up the neighborhood canines.

Would you believe they (all but the youngest and oldest) slept out Monday and Tuesday as well?

The reasoning being that the sprinklers being off, any forecast moisture would fall down from the sky, and not full force from the ground up, underneath the tent fly. Silly boys. We do live in a desert, but it does occasionally rain. And as they discovered last night, it doesn't always come down in a vertical fashion.

They've announced their intentions to sleep indoors tonight.

It was a nice dream, while it lasted.  

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Doors and Drawers

I think I should build a playground full of doors. Doors and drawers. Cabinet doors, bedroom doors, sliding doors, pocket doors, folding doors, rotating doors. Big heavy drawers that roll with a hollow chunking sound in and out. Little tiny ones that make a satisfying click. All sorts of knobs and latches and locks. And not just doors on walls, but doors in frames that stand upright that you can go through. Again and again and again.

Ooooh. And real working telephones and remote controls. None of this fake toy business with a canned loop of recorded sayings. They know the real thing when they see it, and nothing else will do. A water fountain, of course, or even just a pipe or two providing a steady drip of water to play in. All issues of water preservation aside, you know they'd love it.

To make it truly paradisiacal, the playground would also have lots of plastic boxes and baskets. Okay, okay, to make it truly paradisiacal, the boxes and baskets would have to be full of toys and books for the children to dump, on the way in and out of the doors, and a playground attendant to refill them, ready for the next pass-thru, but that might get expensive so lets just stick with the boxes. Unless someone can cheaply produce a holographic system wherein we could fill the boxes and drawers and cupboards with computer generated images of toys, household goods and dishes that a child could sweep out, with full sound effects, but they'd just disappear as they hit the ground.  Mattel, Nintendo, Microsoft, are you listening? This could make you the toy giant of the millenium.

 

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Morning Conversations

Kimber! Kimber! Listen to this one–

    Um. I think I've heard enough jokes this morning.

But this one's really funny.

    Okay. One more.

What does the man in the moon use to hold up his paints?

    Uh, I don't know. You stumped me again. What does he use?

An astronaut belt! Hahahahahahahaha!

    Let me see the book–Ah. I think you meant he holds up his pants with an astroid belt.

Huh? That's not funny…

[Phone Rings]

Hello? . . . Hello? . . . Helloooo?

 'ello? Is Meester Marrrrrty Leebert there?

No he isn't, can I take a message?

This is very important information about his auto loan. If you can have him call back as soon as possible?

He doesn't have an auto loan.

Oh. Well, do you want one?

Um. No.

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No Shows

Only four children here today. And three of them sound asleep. Two of them leaving shortly.

It's surreal.

Mostly because the one family that didn't show that should be here hasn't called and isn't answering my calls. I start imagining all sort of scenarios when this happens. Why maybe they have just decided to leave care without a word–I put myself through this every time and usually they've just been sick or something and forgotten to call. But still I go over the past week, worrying.

Was the baby's shirt too dirty when they picked them up yesterday? I'd lost the bib somewhere between nap and lunch, after all. She tears it off at every opportunity. Are they fed up with the dirty knees and inside out socks? Let's see, the father picked them up yesterday–one kid had just smashed a graham cracker all over the floor and their kid had shredded an old coloring book. I figured it would keep her from climbing the cupboards while I fed her sister, so I allowed it, but it really was a disaster when he came in.

Speaking of climbing on cupboards, this kid is insane. She is always climbing and when I warn her to get down she does this heart stopping victory dance as I approach. Two days ago she fell off and got quite a bump on the back of her head. Two weeks ago she climbed a toy outside, slipped and got herself a pretty nice shiner; she told everyone she fell out the window. Yeah–a window eight inches off the ground, in a toy house. She has been bumped and bruised more often in this first month of care than all the other kids put together in my entire career here.

Is that it? Have they called it quits because she keeps getting hurt?

Seriously, all day, I go through the possibilities. Why? When, really, there's nothing I can do or could have done different, and even if they have become disillusioned with this place, and moved on, I really don't care. I have another family lined up that will come tomorrow to take their place–a family who won't care what my floor looks like, and will trust me enough to know that whatever bumps or scrapes occur, well, that's childhood for you.

Grow up, girl. This isn't a popularity contest.

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In the Flesh

Brushing my teeth the other night I seriously thought–Not again!

As in:

How much time have I spent in the past thirty odd years standing over a sink, frantically scrubbing my teeth with a little plastic stick? How much time sudsing up in the shower, combing through my wet hair afterwards, drying it, finding something to wear, washing those things to wear, flossing the teeth, buying the clothes, mending the clothes, buying and preparing and cleaning up after the food required to keep this flesh and blood body running day in and day out?

But as I considered the vast amount of time spent just maintaining this body, I had an epiphany.

I always understood on some level, the sacred nature of the human body–the miracle that is human life–but I guess I never got it. Never really understood that my body is not something like my old van–something that worked well enough to get me from point A to point B; something to be merely tolerated and used and finally tossed aside when it could go not one yard further, and eventually replaced with a new and improved machine. This is it–the gift of life God and my parents gave me.

Ezekiel saw in vision a field of dry bones coming together, sinews and flesh and skin brought up on them. Apostles and prophets and Christ himself promised a resurrection of our mortal bodies–but it will be this body that will be resurrected. And here was the arresting thought–you know the parable of the talents? The idea that we will be held accountable for our gifts and what we have done with them?

For the first time I considered that maybe God will be just as interested in what I did with the physical gift of my mortal frame, as he will be with the other intangible talents he has given me. Why else would mortality be so consumed with the details of survival? If God wanted us to focus solely on spiritual things, He would have made us immortal in the first place, wouldn't he? To avoid the distractions and demands of the flesh?  Granted, we have the flesh in order to school the spirit–ideally the spirit grows stronger than the flesh instead of the other way around. But surely that ratio should not be accomplished by the physical weakening or neglect of the flesh.

I'm not proposing that an inordinate amount of time be spent on the physical self–you're not going to catch me signing up for Body Sculpting 101 or Mrs. America, but I do think I have been less than responsible with this mortal gift. Maybe because I have very little concept of my own mortality–that someday this thing could just up and quit on me. Maybe because I'm lazy–I'd much rather sit on the grass and study the History of the US government than get up and play ball with the rest of the team.

And if it is a lack of willpower (a spiritual thing, no?) that keeps me from going on that walk or run, or declining that second slice of pie, then perhaps some of the ills of my spirit manifest themselves in the ills of my flesh. They are inextricably linked.

I have new respect today for the mundane tasks of just living–they aren't asides in a more important task, but a crucial part of our schooling here on earth. Now if only I could translate that respect into action! Maybe I'll finally make that dental appointment I've been avoiding. . . 

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Truth in Advertising

Ironically enough, when I next changed him (this is Bubbaloo, after all) his shirt read "Caution!" And believe you me, we exercise plenty of that; lesson learned.

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