Friday, October 22, 2010


I've been doing a lot of remembering. I've been remembering throughout this entire year. But really, I've been doing that for a while now. I didn't wait for my grandpa to die to replay images, memories, and stories from our lives together. My family is very good at verbal process, so we process everything over and over and over. We relive moments. Christmas isn't just about that one moment beneath the Christmas tree. We can live off of that day for weeks. My sister, mom, and I all take turns calling each other and reliving the highlights, affirming each other in our gift choices, and food contributions.

Still, there is something significant about that first year without someone. Each sensory emotion is a reminder of who they were and how they are no longer with you in flesh on earth.

This is the month my grandpa left this life. I think it is fitting since it is fall, and he was affectionately called The Great White Hunter.

I also think it timely that I came across a picture of him holding me as a baby, which looks very similar to a picture of him holding my second. I love it. The gift of him continues to give.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Am I The Ugly Duckling?

I can't help it, certain classic children's stories make me cry. I always get weepy when I read Are You My Mother, and I can't help but become emotionally invested in any telling of The Ugly Duckling. Is this because we can all relate to the Ugly Duckling? Anyone else get sappy while reading this classic tale?

I found a version of the Ugly Duckling that is just the right length and word choice to hold the attention of my sons ages five and four. It is by Sebastien Braun, who is an illustrator.

What are some children's stories that make you tear up?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Zany Cats and Windy Days

Sometimes I want to read a book that rhymes, sometimes one with a good story, and other times I'm looking for a short read because I am so tired I don't want bedtime to last any longer. The tricky thing with some short books is their lack of imagination and entertainment. And the tricky thing with rhyming books is their lack of a driving story. And the trouble with books that tend to have good stories...they can be too long for that night time read. That is why I found three winners which fit well in the categories above:

Rhymes, but isn't annoying:

Short, and still clever:

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Interesting story, and just the right length:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Love That Dog

My father has two best friends: his dog and his tractor. Actually, the dog is ours---technically. Our dog Oscar rewards loyalty. My parents and I live 100 yards apart, so he sleeps on the porch of the last person who just spent time with him.

Since my father spends most of his days outside, as does Oscar, the dog can most often be seen on their porch.

But we have no hard feelings. We know Oscar loves us too. He and my youngest were pups together. They still spoon each other in the backyard. My baby, 18 months old now, likes to wrestles Oscar, pretend to ride Oscar like a horse, and mutually exchange lick kisses.

Each one of us loves our best friend Oscar; each one of us feels like we have this canine’s undivided love, but, my dad does win the prize of the most reciprocated love and affection. Oscar makes sure he is present every morning to help my dad put on his work boots, getting in the way of the laces with his eager excitement. Oscar loyally stays in the woods all day as my father cuts and stacks firewood. (This brings my worried mother some comfort in case my father should ever get into any trouble---falling trees at 70 years old. Dad refuses to utilize the radios we bought him two years ago for Christmas.) This best friend rides next to my father in the blue Chevy. We joke that my dad has a new blonde girlfriend; Oscar is a yellow lab. No former dog has ever been allowed in the cab; Oscar is privileged.

I just got my teeth cleaned and found myself bragging about our wonder dog more than my own litter of boys. The dental hygienist breeds labs, so I wasn’t totally off my conversation mark by swapping dog tales.

I wowed her with Oscar’s obedience and trainability. Oscar never chases or harms our chickens, leaves our cat alone. Oscar never crosses the line of our back door, knowing his rightful place as an outside dog, and Oscar obediently walks to the dog chain with one simple flick of our hand.

I impressed the hygienist with my dog’s athleticism and instincts: regularly catches snakes, never knew we had so many on our property; lays dead birds on our back porch; and once pranced proudly around the property with the head of a freshly conquered nutria between his doggy jaws.

Oscar is the best dog we’ve ever had. I well with pride when I think of his love and loyalty. In our area we’ve had an increase in Cougar sightings. In fact, six have been tracked and killed because they were attacking local sheep farms. The other day when I was picking blackberries, I knew if a scary mountain lion jumped out at me through the briars, Oscar would----without question----lay down his life for me.

There is just something about a dog. I think dogs were created for us as much as we were for them. There is a unique bond forged between man and mutt. My late grandfather knew this. Grandpa too was a boy who loved a dog. Before Grandpa passed away this last November, he always wanted updates on Oscar. I think Grandpa lived a bit vicariously through the sense of freedom and adventure he heard in the tales of our dog. Oscar kept Grandpa feeling still like a young boy who had a four-legged best friend.

Oscar brings us all a lot of joy and pride. And that is why I smile when I hear my father starting up the tractor and see that yellow streak sprint across the yard, not to be left behind. There is enough love to go around. Sharing Oscar just makes the joy of dog ownership that much better.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Dear Friend

The other night my son told me that an older boy (2nd grade) had laughed at him when he slipped off the monkey bars. I asked him if that hurt his feelings. He shrugged, "Maybe a little bit, but my friends told him that it wasn't nice to laugh. And I tried again and made it all the way across." I am so happy that my son has a group of friends. Friends give you all the confidence that you need. Sticks, stones, and words don't hurt quite so much when you have a sense of belonging with your peers.

I had this from a very young age, what a blessing. Much of my confidence in myself came from my best friend. We knew each other from before we were born. I think she was supposed to be born a few weeks before me, so the story goes, but she was very late in coming, way over due. Even at age three, when we were supposed to be at a certain dreaded babysitter's house, we escaped out the bedroom window together, walked down the street, and back into her house where our mom's were visiting. I would never have done this without my friend.

I remember my sister asking my mom. in middle school, why she didn't have a best friend. I said a prayer of thanks that I did have one. I understood her desperate desire. I couldn't imagine surviving junior high without mine.

It has been 33 years of friendship now.

When it was my birthday she did a tribute to me and our friendship, and so I'm returning the love. One thing she pointed out was that we need some recent photos. I was sure I had some, and guess what....I don't. I have photos of our kids together. Seems like I've stopped taking pictures of adults. I'll just have to drive down and see her and take a few pictures ASAP.

Does it help that her daughter looks just like she did and my sons favor me quite a bit? Does that count?